Leg­end is gone but not for­got­ten

Devon Life - - Promotion -

Hope’s legacy

Hope Bourne, like Johnny King­dom, came to live in har­mony with the en­vi­ron­ment of Ex­moor as a re­sult of mis­for­tune.

When the death of her mother left Hope with no home, qual­i­fi­ca­tions or in­come, she re­turned to the moor to live on and with the land, in a man­ner as self-suf­fi­cient and self-re­liant as pos­si­ble. For many years she lived in a sim­ple car­a­van at Ferny Ball, a de­serted farm­stead near Withy­pool, with no ser­vices or con­ven­tional com­forts.

Hope, who died in 2010, also gained na­tional at­ten­tion in the late 1970s and 1980s, with a se­ries of news­pa­per in­ter­views and tele­vi­sion pro­grammes. These mis­lead­ingly por­trayed her as a noble fig­ure liv­ing a ro­man­tic wild life; in re­al­ity her man­ner of liv­ing, which de­spite its fru­gal­ity was far from reclu­sive, was forced upon her by cir­cum­stance rather than by choice.

To cel­e­brate her cen­te­nary, the Ex­moor So­ci­ety has pub­lished Hope Bourne’s Re­flec­tions in Words, avail­able from the So­ci­ety’s head­quar­ters in Dul­ver­ton (ex­moor­so­ci­ety.com). The edi­tor of the an­thol­ogy, Lisa Eden, says: “I have se­lected pieces which show Hope rev­el­ling in Ex­moor’s storms and si­lences, and in the drama of rag­ing seas at Hart­land, where she spent her early years. In her work Hope pays trib­ute to friend­ship – both hu­man and an­i­mal.”

Ex­moor will never be the same with­out Johnny King­dom, one time wild man turned wildlife cham­pion, who af­ter a lifechang­ing ac­ci­dent laid aside his poach­ing gear to stalk the birds and beasts of the moor through the lens of a cam­era.

Born in High Bray in 1939, he fol­lowed his fa­ther into the lo­cal quar­ries, into the role of par­ish gravedig­ger and into the pur­suit of poach­ing. A se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent whilst work­ing as a lum­ber­jack not only threat­ened his phys­i­cal strength but tem­po­rar­ily de­stroyed his con­fi­dence, an ex­pe­ri­ence he later de­scribed as a shock that had run through his sys­tem like a bolt of light­ning, “mak­ing me afraid of life it­self”.

The de­pres­sion lifted when a friend loaned Johnny a video cam­era. He headed for Ex­moor, spot­ted a herd of deer and used his old stalk­ing skills to ap­proach as close as pos­si­ble. Now the im­ple­ment he held above his head was a cam­era and not a ri­fle. Re­turn­ing home, he re­alised that his ex­pe­ri­ence on the moor, film­ing the wild crea­tures, had brought him back to life.

Sell­ing videos and pho­to­graphs in mar­kets and at events across North Devon, his tal­ent and unique per­son­al­ity were even­tu­ally recog­nised by tele­vi­sion pro­duc­ers, and his fame be­came na­tional as well as lo­cal.

His tele­vi­sion doc­u­men­taries thrilled view­ers not just for the qual­ity of his work but also for the in­fi­nite pa­tience he dis­played whilst set­ting up the shots and wait­ing for the crea­tures – deer, hares, bad­gers and adders (he dis­liked snakes) – to ap­pear. That abil­ity to put him­self in the right spot, be still and wait, first in­stilled in him as a child when his fa­ther called him to watch how a cuckoo pa­tiently in­fil­trated a spar­row’s nest, was de­scribed by Johnny as the most im­por­tant skill he pos­sessed.

Johnny King­dom died in Septem­ber 2018, aged 79, fol­low­ing an ac­ci­dent with a dig­ger on his land at Know­stone.

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