Hugh’s Wild West
Lifelong nature-lover Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall pursues his fascination with the wildlife of the West country as he teams up with the region’s most dedicated nature lovers.
In this 12-part series, filmed over an entire year, Hugh joins forces with the people working to celebrate and safeguard the region’s charismatic and captivating cast of creatures. For Hugh, it’s a welcome chance to raise his game as a wildlife enthusiast, learning as much as he can while sharing the joys and rich rewards that come with getting closer to nature.
His year-round adventure centres on four of the South West’s most cherished landscapes: Dartmoor, with its wooded valleys and granite tors; the unique shoreline and sea life of the Jurassic Coast; the ancient woodland and crystal streams of the Forest of Dean and the wetlands and waterways of the Somerset Levels.
Through the series there are exhilarating encounters with dolphins and with wild boar, and intimate moments such as getting hands on with a hibernating dormouse and discovering the charming family values of a tiny bird that first captivated him on his garden bird table – the long-tailed tit.
Episode 7 of 12: Voles – 17th February 2018
Nearby, water voles are being returned to the area after a 30-year absence and local vet Stephen Powles has developed an extraordinary level of trust with one otter and her cubs living at the end of his garden.
Episode 6 of 12: Boars – 10th February 2018
Hugh goes in search of the imposing wild boar that have returned to the forest after three centuries. And he gets up close to the elusive ‘phantom of the forest’ – the goshawk, a bird of prey perfectly adapted to hunting in woodland. He also discovers why the forest is so good for insects like moths and beetles.
Episode 5 of 12: Starlings – 3rd February 2018
Hugh is in the Somerset Levels to witness one of our greatest wildlife spectacles – huge winter flocks of starlings swirling in the sky as they come in to roost. The reedbeds where they seek refuge have been created from old peat quarries and thanks to dedicated volunteers they are now a haven for rare bitterns and great white egrets.
Nearby, there is another conservation success story – the large blue butterfly has been brought back from near-extinction. And avid nature enthusiast Stephen Hembery spends every spare moment catching his local wildlife on film but there is one elusive animal he is really focusing on – the hare.
Episode 4 of 12: Beavers – 27th January 2018
This time, Hugh is on his home patch of the Dorset/Devon border, where he investigates the return of an animal that hasn’t been spotted here since the 16th century – the beaver – and discovers how these dam-building rodents are changing the landscape.
Nearby, Abbotsbury Swannery has been home to a huge colony of mute swans since the middle ages and it is the job of resident swan herder Dave Wheeler to round up all the adults for a health check with the help of dozens of volunteers. And thanks to bat enthusiast Colin Morris, Dorset’s greater horseshoe bats are now enjoying very plush living quarters – a former mansion that has been renovated just for them, affectionately known as the Horseshoe Hilton.
Episode 3 of 12: Long-tailed Tits – 20th January 2018
In this episode, Hugh explores the ancient woods and valleys of Dartmoor on a quest to find out more about his favourite garden bird, the long-tailed tit.
He joins local naturalist John Walters to discover how family life is the key to survival for these sociable little birds as they huddle up together through the cold winter nights and work as a team to bring up chicks.
With the help of wildlife hero, Leo Gubert, Hugh tracks down a hibernating dormouse to discover if they really do sleep for seven months of the year. And he gets a little too close for comfort to some feisty wood ants.
Episode 2 of 12: Cuttlefish – 13th January 2018
Enthusiastic nature lover Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall continues his wildlife adventures as he explores the Jurassic Coast to investigate the strange life of its most curious creatures and to meet the local heroes dedicated to helping them. His fascination for marine life centres on an intriguing ocean oddity – the cuttlefish. With the help of local fishermen, Hugh devises a plan to see them close up and to try to understand their otherworldly behaviour.
On the shingle expanse of Chesil Beach, a team of dedicated volunteers keep a 24-hour watch over a colony of little terns to help these rare birds raise their tiny chicks in safety. And Hugh revisits the rockpools he knew as a child in search of new finds and familiar favourites.
Episode 1 of 12: Dippers – 6th January 2018
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall explores the wildlife of the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean, the hideaway for some very particular creatures. He becomes captivated by the extraordinary life of the dipper, the UK’s only aquatic songbird. Hugh meets one of his wildlife heroes, the tireless Stephanie Tyler who has studied these delightful birds for 40 years. With the help of wildlife cameraman, Robin Smith, the pair get a privileged insight into the extraordinary underwater agility of these unique birds. On the river, Hugh takes the chance to re-live his childhood, catching minnows in the clear waters of the Wye. And nearby, wildlife enthusiast and IT technician, Gareth Jones, has rigged his garden with a network of mini cameras to spy on the secret lives of his animal neighbours – and his home movies are more gripping than any soap opera!
Produced by KEO West for BBC 2
Presenter: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Executive Producer: Matt Cole
Series Producer: Joanne Stevens
Producer/Director: Matt Clements and Anne Gallagher
Editor: Tom Heaney
Junior Production Manager: Ciara Spankie
Edit Assistant: Harriet Hoare
Researcher: Nalini Crack
Junior Researcher: James Cox