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 12 of 12: Wildlife Guardians – 24th March 2018
In the final episode, nature lover Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall pays tribute to the wildlife heroes who are protecting the West Country’s creatures. He meets Beryl Casey, who has transformed her home into a hedgehog hospital, nursing sick and injured hogs back to health. The UK’s hedgehog population has halved since the millennium so every animal counts, and Hugh helps return one of Beryl’s patients to the wild.
Across the region, Hugh discovers volunteers working hard to safeguard their local wildlife – whether that is helping amorous toads to cross busy roads in the breeding season, keeping watch over precious gull nests or creating space for nature in a bustling caravan park. And one Somerset teenager, Mya Rose, is determined to recruit the next generation of wildlife guardians by enabling inner-city kids to get into the countryside.
Episode 11 of 12: 17th March 2018
Hugh visits Worthy Farm, the home of Glastonbury Festival, to see how the wildlife copes when a quarter of a million festivalgoers descend on the countryside, and discovers that the badgers seem pretty unfazed by their new neighbours.
Nearby, Secret World Rescue Centre rehabilitates animals that need a helping hand. It is time for Drift the otter to return to the wild, but can he survive on his own?
Hugh also visits Steart Marshes on the Somerset coast, where a vast area of farmland has been reverted to saltmarsh to provide a haven for all kinds of birdlife and one of Hugh’s favourite fish, the eel. European eels have suffered a huge decline in the past few decades but, with this new marsh and the help of the local community, their future is looking brighter.
Episode 10 of 12: 10th March 2018
Hugh discovers how the people and animals of Dartmoor live alongside each other in this challenging landscape. He visits an ancient hill farm with dozens of nesting house martins and swallows that thrive thanks to the careful farming practices of tenants Mark Owen and Naomi Oakley.
In the town of Buckfastleigh, Hugh spends an evening surrounded by bats as they forage for insects, but local bat enthusiasts are keen to track down where they give birth so they can protect these important maternity roosts. And Hugh joins Dru Butterfield, who has dedicated her life to the Dartmoor pony to see how these hardy creatures can help retain and restore the biodiversity of the moor.
Episode 9 of 12: 3rd March 2018
Hugh is in the Wye Valley hoping to come face to face with an animal that has intrigued him since boyhood – the barbel, also known as the Prince of the River. With the help of local angling guide, the appropriately named Adam Fisher, Hugh wants to fulfil his dream of swimming with these large, regal fish.
It is not just the river that is teeming with life – the cliffs around Chepstow are home to one of the fastest birds on the planet, the peregrine falcon. Thanks to eagle-eyed birdwatchers, the nests of these rare birds are being protected from persecution. In the north of the valley, Hugh helps to re-introduce tiny harvest mice on a wildlife-friendly farm, and after a day with spider enthusiast Tone Killick, Hugh manages to overcome his arachnophobia, turning his fear into fascination
Episode 8 of 12: 24th February 2018
This time, Hugh is exploring the diverse county of Dorset, where the mild climate creates ideal conditions for all kinds of creatures. In spring, Hugh joins ornithologist Martin Cade at Portland Bird Observatory to monitor migrating birds like blackcaps and wheatears as they arrive on our shores after their epic journeys from Africa.
In the woodlands nearby, bat enthusiast Colin Morris keeps a watchful eye on the extremely rare Bechstein’s bat – he even knows individuals by name. And retired policeman Mick Jenner hopes to catch up with an otter family that he has been filming over the past few years. Hugh also tries to track down one of our largest (and loudest) insects, the great green bush cricket, but it is easier to hear than see. And as autumn arrives, Hugh gets a glimpse of the sika deer rut, when stags compete for dominance.
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