Wild stars of the south-west

A de­tailed look at the species from Dart­moor to Dorset – and the peo­ple help­ing them.

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Books Reviews - Sarah McPher­son

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.”


Hugh eye­balls a har­vest mouse. This tiny ro­dent is the small­est in Europe and lives in hedgerow and grass­land habi­tats.

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