Friday, 4 September 2015


dawn ... and a whole new day to explore the world
I’m coming to realise that I have too many hobbies, passions if you like and the dawning reality that I haven’t enough time to indulge in half of them or satisfy the need to do so is leading to a growing frustration. My life is slipping away and like many of you no doubt, the need to prioritise is ever more pressing. So why waste my time writing a blog?! I’ll try to answer that question by looking into the past.

what a magical place to walk, fish and bird watch
at 18lbs my largest schoolboy pike
As a child, the wide open spaces quickly became a passion because I grew up in the Fens at Ely and found the land of skies and it’s wildlife inspiring. Few people think that fish are wildlife but they are as valuable to our ecosystems as any mammal or bird … and fish are just as interesting and beautiful as any other if you care to look. Living in the water filled Fens I did look, so fishing became a major interest during childhood too.

a brace of 2lb rudd - more valuable than gold nuggets
what a spectacular building and place for my childhood inspiration
what an innocent little boy - not!
Having won a choral scholarship to Ely Cathedral choir, music was not only my first love, it was my first job and singing for my supper from the age of eight and a half in such a glorious building was not only a privilege but inspiring too.

I started playing the French Horn at school and was going to do so professionally until I saw the great Eric Ashby on the BBC’s early ‘Look’ programmes with Peter Scott, stalking wildlife in the New Forest.

with my hero Eric Ashby and one of his favourite wild foxes 

He became my hero and I decided in that instant that making wildlife films was the job for me. I was lucky and got the job of my dreams, travelling the world in search of the most charismatic animals I could find in the wildest and remotest corners of our planet.

polar bear on midnight ice
Travelling with a French Horn wasn’t practical and it’s so difficult to play without practising for an hour or two each day that I bought a flute. Then my computer guru Chris gave me a clarinet and I also try to strum on the piano and guitar. However, I don’t seem to have time to play any of these much now, neither do I go birding or fishing enough, so as they say in India ‘what to do’? To repeat the question at the start of this bleat, ‘why waste my life writing a blog?’

barbel ace Pete Reading as featured in 'the book of the series'
This blog will be the 55th I’ve written and as of today, 99,591 views have been accumulated since I wrote the first one in January 2013. It described the making of the Barbel Society’s Handling Code Film with Pete Reading and the third blog is about catching barbel, again with Pete, filmed for the Ch4 series with Martin Bowler, “Catching the Impossible”. 

That series is still going strong, so I guess it vindicates the four years Martin and I spent trying to get it right. The size of the ‘impossibles’ that Martin so skilfully caught is still eye-watering to this day, proving that nothing is impossible, a principle for life if you ask me.

Martin Bowler's unbelievable 5lbs 4ozs of stunning perch for our series "Catching the Impossible".
 in the wilds of the Andes © Laurie Campbell
The second blog I ever wrote briefly described one of the most rewarding films I ever made, the story of my quest to film mountain lions in the far flung Andean Mountains in Patagonia. I managed to win the trust of a completely wild puma and was able to walk around the mountains with her when hunting and raising her cubs, even at night. Being surrounded by three full grown big cats alone in the dark was one of the moments that was ‘interesting’ as it raised the hairs on the back of my neck ... but I love ‘living on the edge’. How close to the edge I didn’t realise until a few weeks after I’d finished filming when a fisherman was caught and eaten by a puma. If I’d known that at the time I wouldn’t have been walking around the mountains alone at night! One day I’ll tell the story of the making of this film … but where’s the time?

I often wondered what she was thinking when looking deep into my eyes ... and hoped it wasn't 'dinner' © Laurie Campbell
I love story telling … and making films was a very rewarding way of doing so, combining four of my passions … wildlife, photography, writing and music. Writing blogs is story telling and that’s why it’s rewarding ... but what it lacks is that essential ingredient that helps to create the best movies, team work. 

Hebrides in the rain with Sue and Penny and ace film makers John Aitchison and Michael Richards ... happy days
However, creating blogs is a lot quicker and cheaper than making films and as I've had both hips replaced as a result of damage caused by chasing various pussy-cats in the worlds mountains, I've had to stop these hardcore adventures.

up at 17,000ft with one of the world's most charismatic cats ... hip-replacement country
I don’t wish to become a cripple again so creating blogs will have to do … and it’s rewarding to receive your kind comments about the contents that I conjure up. Self indulgent it might be but writing blogs fulfils a creative urge. It also allows me to share my adventures with those who aren't as fortunate or lucky to have met so many great people in the world's wildest places, along with the animals that live there. So I guess my blogs are a kind of celebration that allows me to pay back the privileges ... and hopefully it encourages all of us to try to enjoy life more often, me included. 

Dorset's beautiful Golden Cap but when are the government going to get serious about marine reserves?
Blogging also gives me a chance to highlight the many challenges that wildlife faces around the world, though many are also on our own doorstep. Some environmental issues are so depressing, like the governments total disregard for our children's future by allowing development to run riot at the expense of wild places that I sometimes try to hide away from reality and just go and enjoy what we have left.

the Hampshire Avon at it's best in early September - there were hunting hobbies above and barbel below
Nearly 100,000 readers of my blogs all over the world seems a lot and I feel suitably humbled that so many folk should take time out to read my ramblings but in the days of my film-making we would think nothing of reaching an audience of up to ten million. 

still much enjoyed even after twenty five years
Our fishing series for BBC 2, ‘A Passion for Angling’ achieved the dizzy heights of an audience of 6.3 million so the blog could be described as ‘small beer’. However, I feel privileged to have the opportunity to ramble on about my hobbies and to bang on about conservation issues … and there are plenty to get stuck into when it comes to our world of water.

lack of water is just one of many threats to our rivers
However, I do miss the camaraderie of film-making and the whole creative process so blog creation fills the void until I can make the time to finish writing a book about my adventures. At least I don’t have to spend up to 270 days abroad, something I did routinely every year, so there’s more time now for my wife Sue and our two children, Katie and Peter.  It would usually take two years or more to make a major wildlife film and creating a total of over sixty meant spending a lot of time away from home, out in the wilds.

angling friends Trev, Budgie and Robin
I missed family and friends of course but the commitment was something I had to do to succeed. You buy into a life-style and have to put up with the sacrifices, [not that I'm complaining.] Now that I’ve largely stopped travelling our beautiful garden receives a lot more attention than it used to. At two acres it’s about two acres too big … but I’d miss dredging ponds for days on end …and they’re right about mud, mud, glorious mud ... the digging certainly keeps Sue and I fit.

the wild flower meadow is a joy and provides a haven for up to 160 heads of orchid, all naturally colonised 
Still, it takes me more than a day to write each blog and assemble the pictures, so that’s 55+ days I could have gone fishing or birding or been able to make the time to paint water- colours or read all those books I have bought or friends have given me. Like I said at the start, I have too many hobbies but hey, life would be awfully dull if we didn’t have enough to do, wouldn’t it … and I did enjoy rambling on in this ditty … and contrary to my whinging, I do go fishing occasionally. 

what stunning fish barbel are ... and this one weighed 13lbs.11ozs - I was quite happy!
How about this beautiful barbel from the Hampshire Avon, caught a couple of weeks ago. What stunning creatures they are. I’ll have to write about them next time I don’t have enough to do! But until then, catch one for me and go see one of those ospreys that are heading south for Africa down the immemorial skyways to the sun.
 strike action - visiting a lake near you right now


  1. Don't ever lose the blog in favour your other passions and hobbies, Hugh.

    Blog? Small beer?


    Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach!

  2. Hugh, your blogs are very much appreciated here in the cultural desert that is suburban Essex. They are a pleasure to read and a great insight into your world and the outstanding work you’ve produced over the years. Thank you for finding the time to share your experiences and your passions, and long may you continue to find fascination in the world of nature and wildlife.

  3. Your words, films and photographs are an inspiration to myself and my children. For them the world is still big and wild. Long may it continue!
    Thankyou Hugh.