Monday, 29 April 2013


            “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space”

searching at dawn doesn't get any better © Laurie Campbell
This is a creed that I admire, written by Tim Smit, inspirer for the restoration of the ‘Lost Gardens of Heligan’ in Cornwall … and isn’t it wonderful that spring has finally arrived, the leaves of our trees unfurling and our shrubs in glorious flower.

camellias worthy of Heligan

view from our office window - nice!

camellias, magnolias and amelanchier - spring is here at last
I love our garden, despite the fact that looking after it stops me going fishing … but I make no apologies for writing this promotion for our charity film show on Friday because without an audience we won’t be able to achieve all the restoration of our local River Allen that the Dorset Wildlife Trust plan for the next few years.

such a beautiful big cat © Laurie Campbell
I guess in a career spanning over fifty years in which I’ve made more than sixty wildlife films there are going to be one or two special favourites and ‘Puma – Lion of the Andes’ certainly counts as one of them. It also fits the title ‘living on the edge’ for trying to film pumas in the wild was considered an impossible task. However, I promised National Geographic that I would at least return with a film about a beautiful place and here’s a collection of happy snaps friend Laurie Campbell and I took during our time there. Laurie was there for just six weeks, I was there on and off for over two years … but enough words … we hope you enjoy the pics … and if you do, please come along to watch the film on Friday 3rdMay, at 19.00 for 19.30 at the Allendale Centre in Wimborne, Dorset.

condor country © Laurie Campbell
We will also be showing a little film about the river Allen … and much to the relief of Nat.Geo. we did film pumas … in fact, I was paid the ultimate compliment at the UK’s International Film Festival, ‘Wildscreen’ when out of about 650 films the puma film not only won the award for ‘Best Adventure Film’ but better still, the 700 or so delegates from around the world chose it their ‘Best of Festival’. We hope you can make it to the show.
condors look big even in these mountains © Laurie Campbell

remains of puma kills provide a feast © Laurie Campbell
Guanacos, South American camels and progenitor of the llama are the pumas favourite prey. Weighing 250lbs. they are formidable prey and take some killing.
young guanacos - puma snacks © Laurie Campbell

scraps provide food for Chilean foxes © Laurie Campbell

the camp pet and unlike our puma, habituated to food © Laurie Campbell

cheese and dog biscuits were top of the menu
a beautiful place to live © Laurie Campbell
surprisingly comfortable, even for months on end
filming at night made the hairs stand on end © Laurie Campbell
she had big teeth © Laurie Campbell

do these cave paintings show an ancient farmer being stalked by a puma?
looking for trouble © Hugh Miles

spitting mad - rivalry for the ladies gets violent © Laurie Campbell
great friend since childhood and farmer of guanaco, Robin Pratt shared a memorable return visit for my 60th birthday 
the lakes provided wonderful brown trout fishing © Hugh Miles and all those below

a splendid fish ... and it made a change from tined tuna
fierce winds were a frequent hazard - I got blown over a couple of times

wind off the glacier created amazing skies

southern beech - smashed by storms
a magical place to work
the largest ice cap in South America was close by
thermal underwear winters
at least I could see where she was heading
spring arrives with a glorious splash of colour

carpets of flowers for guanaco to feast on © Laurie Campbell
torrent ducks thrived in the fast water
huemul - thought to be the rarest deer in the world

large magellanic woodpeckers certainly shift some timber

hip replacement country © Laurie Campbell
© Laurie Campbell  and below
but it was worth it
what a place for me to take pictures and make a film! © Hugh Miles

The show will end with an auction for this wonderful photograph of my star cat, Penny the puma, kindly donated by friend Laurie Campbell. Please don't come with short arms and deep pockets! The river needs all the help it can get.
when she looked at me like this I wondered what she was thinking and hoped it wasn't 'dinner'! © Laurie Campbell

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