Wild stars of the south-west
A detailed look at the species from Dartmoor to Dorset – and the people helping them.
Hugh's Wild West TV BBC Two Continuing Saturdays, 6.15pm
January and February usually see us spend a lot of time indoors, staring at darkening skies and longing for summer. This gentle new 12-parter for BBC Two, which follows Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on a year-long quest to seek out the wildlife of the southwest, feels like a breath of fresh air during these cold, often dismal days.
The UK may not boast the world’s most charismatic megafauna, but our native species have a charm of their own. And more importantly, many of them are perfectly accessible. “In the crazy, bustling world we live in, there is so much to be gained from visiting wild or semi-wild places,” says Hugh. “We have dealt many hard blows to the natural world, yet wildlife can be resilient and learn to cohabit with us, which is a gift. If we spend time outside, we can find amazing animals doing incredible things in plain view – it’s very nourishing.”
And so off outside he goes, criss-crossing between four of the south-west’s most cherished wild landscapes: Dartmoor; the Wye Valley; Dorset’s Jurassic coast; and the Somerset Levels. While we have already seen the presenter encountering the likes of dippers, cuttlefish and glow-worms (catch the early episodes on BBC iPlayer), Hugh’s encounters yet-to-come include, in no particular order, tracking wild boar in the Forest of Dean, seeking barbels in the Wye, reintroducing harvest mice onto a wildlife-friendly farm, investigating how local wildlife survives Glastonbury Festival, watching bats foraging in Buckfastleigh and exploring the new saltmarsh habitat at WWT Steart Marshes.
Along the way, Hugh meets a plethora of wildlife heroes – both amateur and professional – and the insight into just how much hands-on work they do to protect local rarities underpins the series. “As a documentary film-maker, it’s important for me to tell stories in the right context – I didn’t want to present wildlife in a rosetinted bubble where there’s no human intervention,” he says. “People are a very significant part of this series. We are telling stories both of amazing creatures and of the people helping them – a lot of conservation work is going on and many challenges need to be faced. It’s a realistic perspective on British wildlife.”
THERE IS SO MUCH TO BE GAINED FROM VISITING WILD PLACES.”
Hugh eyeballs a harvest mouse. This tiny rodent is the smallest in Europe and lives in hedgerow and grassland habitats.