Thursday, 30 September 2010

Base Camp Eden - The Adventure

My article has now been published, so here is the link to my diary of our weekend at Base Camp Eden!
This on-line version will only be available for 1 week, so I have pasted the article below, in case you want to read it after it expires.

The article is on page 32.

I have also included a link for the Eden Website...

Base Camp Eden - Newspaper article

Eden Inspires

Here is my article, now read it, be inspired and tune into Eden!

Base Camp Eden - Forest of Dean 2010

It was midday when we arrived at the first ever Base Camp Eden, the journey was painstakingly long from Cinderford, but it was worth it as we pulled into Beanhill Farm at Alvington.
We were the first family to arrive and were greeted by at least 6 organisers and of course the film crew. I could see Ben Fogle standing outside the large tent and he looked down and nodded. It was very surreal, knowing that we would be spending the next two days with Ben and a film crew in the place, which we call home.
My two daughters Alice 15, Louise 12 and my wife Nicky were a little camera shy at first, but we all soon learnt to ignore them and to just have fun.
After the other families arrived, Ben introduced us all to Base Camp and what we could expect over the next two days. We were then ushered into the large tent where we had lunch. Everything was relaxed and perfect, right down to the smallest detail.
We set off for New Fancy for some falconry, put on by the International Centre for Birds of Prey at Newent, before heading off to Puzzle Wood!
I had no idea who had been lined up as our guides and it was another surreal moment to find that a friend (Pete Ralph) was giving the tour around Puzzle Wood.
Pete's knowledge of the Forest of Dean is overwhelming and it made the tour very special.
Piling back into our convoy on Land Rovers, we headed back to Base Camp.
There was a banquet for dinner, with a whole spit-roasted pig (not wild boar!), a huge fish pie and all the vegetables you could eat!
As we sat down I left a small space to my left. As soon as Ben walked in, I made the space slightly bigger and he picked it! I can tell ya, eating some carrots while listening to Ben Fogle recite the time when he rowed the Atlantic is something you gotta try!
That was not all the reciting he did! After dinner we walked out to a massive camp fire with Ash tree stumps to sit on. Ben recited his whole life and I mean his whole life! A lot of people took an awful amount of inspiration from Ben that evening, including me. He is a genuine nice guy who is approachable and Saturday evening was the highlight of the trip for me.
After questions we had a treat! Chocolate covered scorpions, ants and mealworms! The scorpions tasted like chocolate peanuts, but the ants were a bit tangy!!!
It was a 06.30am wake up call, so we then headed for bed. They had erected some Mongolian Yurts for us to sleep in and they were absolutely fantastic. As a family we have always been keen campers, but after sleeping in a Yurt, none of us will ever look on a tent in the same way again!

Full English breakfast at 07.30am, then off for Bush Craft in the forest with a local man called Alan Cree. I have lived in the forest all my life and thought I was good at building hides for wildlife photography, but Alan taught us all how to build the perfect shelter, how to light fires without matches and how to survive if you have no food and water.
It was a pleasure to meet and learn from this extraordinary gentleman and if there is anyone who would like to learn survival skills, I would recommend him to everyone.
We then headed to Symonds Yat Viewpoint where a very extravagant packed lunch was waiting! We strolled up to the viewpoint where we were greeted by Forestry Commission Ranger, Neil Sollis and his wife. They were to be our guides for the rest of the day.
Sadly this is where Ben had to say goodbye, so I quickly took the opportunity to get a "few more snaps" of him with my daughters before we headed off to Symonds Yat East for some canoeing!
After a quick lesson of how not to capsize, we headed off towards the rapids! This was one amazing experience and I was lucky that along with my eldest daughter Alice, we were the second to venture down the rapids and luckily we made it down without capsizing!
With a better view from the bottom we were watching everyone else come through. My wife Nicky with my youngest daughter Louise did a pirouette half way down and I thought they were gonners, but somehow they managed to stay dry"ish". Then all of a sudden we saw the person on the front of one boat fly out and go head first into the river. Then the person on the back flew over the side! I promised I wouldn't say anything, but I must say Neil, you are quite a good swimmer!
We were now all cold and wet, but it made the walk back to the canoe centre even more enjoyable as Neil talked about the forest and the wildlife.

After TV interviews, we headed back to Base Camp Eden for the last time, collected our gear and then set off on our long excruciating journey back to Cinderford.
If I had been given the choice of where the first ever Base Camp Eden was to be held, I would have chosen the Forest of Dean. This place is just amazing, from the nature to the wildlife, we have it all here, right on our doorstep and I can't wait to get back out there!


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Base Camp Eden 2010 - With Ben Fogle!

What a weekend we have had! After winning a photo/conservation competition, my family and I spent the whole weekend with Ben Fogle and a film crew, filming the first ever Base Camp Eden!
The setting was the Royal Forest of Dean, where I live and even though we know the forest like the back of our hands, it did not take away any of the excitement and the weekend will be one, which we will all remember for the rest of our lives.

I have already written a full page article for my Wildlife and Nature Column that will be coming out later today. I will upload this feature tomorrow to give you an insight into what we all got up to on this amazing weekend.

Ben Fogle is one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet and I thank him and everyone else behind the scenes for everything they did, to make this adventure very special.

TV presenter and adventurer Ben Fogle hosted the first Base Camp Eden in the Forest of Dean this weekend. For more information visit

Eden Website

Some pics from the weekend!


Sunday, 19 September 2010

Peregrine Falcon Poisoned - Forest of Dean

The results from tests on a dead peregrine falcon, found in June this year have revealed that it had been poisoned.
It is rare that I get upset to the extent that people make me swear, but these people are Assholes!

Click below for full story.


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Wet, but Wonderful

Here is a link to my latest wildlife column - "Wet, but Wonderful".


If you have trouble with this link here it is in print.....

Wet, but Wonderful!

Well, it’s that time of year again! The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are starting to drop.
It may be miserable and cold out there, but there is a surprising amount of activity going on where our wildlife is concerned. Fallow deer are gathering for the rut, which commences in late September, our reptiles are preparing for hibernation and the lesser horseshoe bats are preparing to mate in the autumn.
There is always something going on in the forest and the fallow deer rut is a great opportunity to get some awe-inspiring views of this beautiful mammal. I will cover this and show some of my unique photographs in October, when the rut is in full swing.
I survey the Dean for the adder and grass snake every year, and this is a time when I feel slightly sad that I will not be seeing them for another 5 months.
I understand that some people have phobias and that some believe the scare stories regarding snakes, but I have helped certain people overcome their fears.
I am not an adrenaline junkie and I always put the wildlife first, but to be inches away from our only venomous snake, without being in any danger is a massive buzz and it is one species I will always have a massive passion for.
On one occasion, I found a 15cm juvenile adder (pictured) that was tucked under a small leaf. She was very hard to spot, but with her eye in the shade of the leaf so her vision was not impaired from the bright sunlight, she could see me just fine!
I started to photograph and film her when I heard a noise next to my right ear. I turned my head slowly and saw a mature male adder looking me right in the eye!
He was approx 60cm away, so I had no choice but to keep my eye on him in case he decided to come closer.
I have worked with these snakes long enough to read their body language and this male was either just being inquisitive or I was lying on his favourite basking spot!
I turned towards him with the video camera and started filming him as he slowly moved away. A couple more snaps of the juvenile and I moved away to let them bask in peace.
I would never advise “anyone” to try and get this close to the adder for it is venomous and an allergic reaction to its venom can be very serious. The problem is that you will not know if you are allergic to the venom until you “are” bitten!