Red Deer in Rutting Season

Wildlife and the animal kingdom has always been a massive passion of mine. As a child I always collected animal cards and facts and posters when everyone else was collecting football stickers. As I’ve got older and started upon my hill walking and mountaineering I have seen many wonderful creatures gracing the landscape around my walks and adventures, but my favorite mammal is easily the Red deer. Many times whilst walking in the Scottish highland I will go for several days without seeing another human being but you can be sure somewhere high on a Munro standing watchful with an err of majestic grace and royalty will be a red deer stag with his hinds not far away.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

It’s because of this I wanted to follow and film the deer but there very illusive most of the year apart from October when its rutting season where the males compete to mate with the females. Luckily there are several wild herds in the White Peak area of the Peak District National Park and I’ve been walking those hills since I was 6 years old. My plan was to shadow the herds for one week capturing them at different times of the day and spend a night out on the moors with them wild camping. Follow me on this journey with this magnificent beast.

Day 1: Started well for me, I tracked the deer down to the back edge of the moorland away from all the public pathways. Straight away I was amazed by their vocal roars known as bolving, a sum what haunting and menacing sound that can travel for miles in the right conditions. They use the roar as there first line of defence against other stags with the biggest and strongest stags producing the loudest and deepest roars. I was lucky enough to see a short battle on my first day, despite it only being short and more of a test of strength for maybe a later battle my adrenalin was high and felt lucky to have witnessed my first battle.

Day 2: 06.30 saw me heading out early to try to get some action in the cooler conditions . After walking through the boggy marsh land I began to climb a hill to where I could definitely here several deer. By this point the sun was up and as I arrived at the top I was faced with 4 young stags who were certainly not intimidated by a bearded man and his camera. As I stood there alone with 20ft between me and 4 stags stood side by side playing who could blink first and feeling I was in some form of spaghetti western stand-off all was thinking was “i bet they can run a hell of a lot faster than me!” After a while they lost interest and went about their business and the rest of the day was fairly uneventful.

Day 3: late afternoon and what a warm and beautiful day starting off following some deer runs through the long grass up onto the flats. There was such a large gathering of red deer from young males to large groups of females to a few large older stags. I was almost totally surrounded by the pure volume of them, it was so impressive to see these numbers thriving in their natural envioroment. I got my tripod set up and mounted the camera only to discover after taking a short video that my memory card was full and I had no spare! “Dam it what an absolute idiot i am!” My only joy was that I actually just got to then sit down, relax and have nature be my TV screen for a couple of hrs.

Day 4: 06.00 and the weather turns for the worse with mother nature showing up and disrupting the filming for the day. However no amount of weather was going to stop me enjoying being out so i set up a base tarp, strapped the GoPro to the dogs and got some doggy cam footage. After firing up the Jet Boil and enjoying some hot soup whilst listening to the distant roars carrying in the wind I made my way back to the van.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Day 5: Today I decided to go the long way round to take in some of the other animals and wildlife that the red deer share their habitat with. My first encounter was the very intimidating yet gentle Highland Cattle which look so powerful and cuddly at the same time, they had young ones with them too which alway makes me take extra caution just incase we have an over protective mum. The rest of the way was filled with sightings of furry caterpillars, grouse, sheep an abundance of bird life including a beautiful kestrel that was constantly in sight while it hovered silently above looking for small rodents to swoop down on. Upon reaching the main deer herd there was a very large male being extremely vocal and doing allot walking back and forth constantly keeping his group of hinds close to him, it was as though he was preparing for something.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Wild Camp and final Day: I set up camp around 10pm using a green tarp, roll mat and sleeping bag in the hope of getting some recordings of them bolving at night which is when they seem to be there loudest as there is less noise pollution but unfortunately it was a fairly quiet night, however all was not lost. As I lay in my sleeping bag I do begin to hear the odd roar so I venture out of my warm bag into the somewhat gloomy cold misty morning grab my camera and begin to look around. As I stand there I could pick out the distant noise of a clatter, and again, and again. I suddenly realised it was the noise of antlers crashing together, wow I was so excited “this is it” i thought “come on time to get the money shot.” Quickly but quietly I walked up a slope to wear the noise was coming from, it was getting louder and so was my heart beat. As I came over the top there they were, two big males going head to head in a full on battle! The power was amazing, the strength and resilience each one showed neither one wanting to back down, antlers locked in and I could see their breath as they gave it all they had. Everything around them seemed to stand still everything was silent other than the noise from the battle. The conditions were perfect, it was misty, dull, cool and damp it was almost like we were in a movie until the reality of natures battle to survive hit home to me as one stag finally turned and fled limping as he went, before long he sat down in the grass panting heavily exhausted from battle, whilst the other stood there in all his glory with the mist and hinds in the background he roared away announcing his victory to all his challengers.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The time I spent with the Red Deer has been absolutely amazing, I enjoyed every second regardless of the time or weather conditions. I feel privileged to have these animals so close to me and to witness their power and struggle in their constant battle to be at the top. These are wild animals at their most aggressive time of the year so please be aware of that if you see them in the wild and give them the space and respect they deserve.

Below is a video diary of my week so crack open the whiskey, chuck a log on the fire and enjoy!

Red deer video diary

 

 

 

 

Nevis at Night

At 1345m Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Britain and towers above the popular tourist town of Fort William. It attracts thousands of people every year in their quest to conquer the Ben. Some fail, some succeed, some for the pure love of walking and personal challenge and others in aid of raising money and awareness for there chosen charities.

I have summited Ben Nevis before however this time was different. I was here with my brother to go up the Ben using the commonly known tourist path, an easier route than i have done before yet a very long and constant slog and not to be underestimated. We were taking part in a brand new event called Nevis at Night organised by Mike Pescod from abacus mountain guides.

The idea was to set off in the evening and reach the summit at night and in darkness and make it down again by the wee early hrs of the morning whilst a photographer captured some light trails from our head torches. The whole event was being put on to raise money for the Nevis landscape partnership fund which work very hard to look after and maintain the public paths and countryside around the Nevis Range.

We packed or rucksack got kited up and off we went to the start point at the Ben Nevis Visitor centre. We met our other group members who all seemed very nice and knowledgable of the area aswell as our two mountain leaders who gave us a prep talk, checked clothing and equipment, specifically head torches and it was time to go, it had just gone 5pm.

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As we set off and my initial nerves that had built up whilst waiting around had gone, I realised the sun was beating down on us and with the rucksack and boots and other walking gear i began to sweat, boy did i sweat, we all did! As we reached the first turning right which was the start of the uphill slog for the next 4 hrs or so i just remember seeing everyone waking down towards us and as i looked back thinking “we are the only group walking up this late in the day, the things i get myself into!” The next 2 and 1/2 hrs were a very long, hot slog zig zaging up the mountain until we reached the half way lochern. What a beautiful view from there we had back down from where we had started and across the skyline with each mountain having its own colour and dominance over the next in the fading dusk lit evening.

We sat to take a breather a drink and some food but it was also then i noticed how the air temperature had dropped significantly and i was now becoming cold whilst not moving. We were soon climbing again and building up body temperature and as we passed the water fall where some filled their water bottles and drank the refreshing cold clean water the trees and grass started to disappear and the terrain became much more grey, rocky and tougher. We had now almost lost the light aswell so out came the head torch and coat, with probably another hr and a half to go we carried on taking it in terns to lead as some were slower than others so it helped the group stay together. As we climbed higher the weather plummeted and although the wind was kind to us the mountain now started to show signs of its power as our torches started showing us patches of snow increasing up the path untill we were surrounded by snow, “wow this is amazing” i thought. The event organisers had lit up the larger cairns for us which looked both spectacular and somewhat eerie at the same time. As we were nearing the top stood in a hollow cairn was the hardiest Scotsman i will ever meet im sure. Unfortunately i don’t know his name but he was there all evening as part of the event and he entertained us by playing the tin whistle and reading us poetry, he had nothing other than the cloths he was wearing a pair of wooly mittens and a small backpack. as i stood there freezing putting on my hat and gloves and zipping up my coat to the max all i could think was “this guy’s nuts! he must be absolutely frozen, but what a legend!”

After feeling inspired and motivated we applauded him and made our final push to the summit. We walked the final approach tightly together as a group and as we got to the plateau passing the magnificently illuminated yet deadly gully of the North Face we heard cheers and applause from Mike and his team we took the final few steps and we’d made it, the summit of Ben Nevis feeling elaighted and proud we stood on the trig point as the snow began to fall around us! it felt magical and as my brother said slightly emotional.

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After pictures and a quick explore it was too cold to hang around so we regrouped and started our decent. It was allot quicker to get down and everyone struggled in some way or another with their knees or feet or both from the constant plod down the mountain. We all reached the bottom and finish line at various times, myself arriving at 12.20 making my moving time up and down the Ben a respectable 5hrs 50mins.

The organisers had put on a hot pulled pork cob with a miniature bottle of whisky from the local distillery to wash it down. Once my brother was down too and joined me we made a steady walk back to our tents where we climbed into our sleeping bags tired, sore a little achy but proud of what we and everyone else had just achieved.

By Mark Roberts

https://www.abacusmountainguides.com/

http://www.nevislandscape.co.uk/

Photography by Daniel Ross Timmis

 

Beaver Scouts

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As a leader for my local Beaver Scout group, I thought you may like to share in a couple of recent adventures we’ve done with the children in order to help promote scouting overall and the volunteers that give up there free time to help encourage children to learn new skills practically and socially and to encourage getting outside more away from those video games and tv’s.

Our most recent two adventures was a day out exploring in the Peak District National Park and having a weekend away in a camping hut at a scout camp site.

We met at the Longshaw Estate in the Peak District where I led a team of leaders and volunteers in a day of fairy hunting, den building, wildlife spotting,tadpole dipping, tree climbing, fact finding, tree and plant identification. I also did surviving in the wild with getting the kids to try out eating different insects like meal worms, crickets and grass hoppers aswell as trying different drinks like pine needle and mint tea! All he children were brilliant and really surprised me at how keen they were to eat them, not all of them stayed in there mouth for long mind but at least they gave it a go which is all i ask. The whole day was roughly 3 miles of walking aswell as lots of climbing, running and exploring with great weather and beautiful scenery the day was a huge success for all involved!

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Our weekend away at Spitewinter Scout site was a first camp away for a few of our new beavers and the first time some of them had ever slept away from Mum and Dad so we thought we would hire the camping hut instead of using small tents. This turned out really well and we had a good dry base for the weekend as it did rain occasionally. Friday evening was all about getting settled, choosing and making there beds, exploring the site and boundaries before having hotdogs for supper and bed time. First night bed time on camps is always a nightmare for leaders, the children are all full of energy, excited, and obsessed with there torches, its like having over 20, 6-8 year old’s for a sleepover on Christmas Eve! I drew the short straw and was on sentry duty and slept in the main hall by the corridor to the kids room, lets just say i was awake more than i was asleep that night! The following day was full of activities for the kids to try. There were blind folded rope walks, treasure hunts, water rockets, grass skiing, human hungry hippos, make your own sausage rolls on a fire, can shy, soap suds and mop football, crazy golf, space hopper racing, ninja ropes and many more.

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That evening all the kids had a go at making there own burgers and kebab’s from scratch using raw ingredients and learning where things come from before almost all of them ate them for tea, aswell as sausages and corn on the cob. That night’s sleep was alot calmer and they were up the following day re energized to carry on playing in the woods making bow and arrows, rope swings, hide and seek, and making tree faces out of clay. It was now 2 p.m and home time, Parents were arriving relieved to find there children still in one piece if not a little dirty and smelly and tired however this to me is a sign the weekend was a success as one parent said to me,

“we were dead proud of him when he showed us his tree swing, told us he hadn’t changed his pants and his nails were full of dirt, he had so much fun and his sparkley eyes told us so!”

Please support Scouting and remember to Encourage your kids or youself to get outside and Explore, Dream, Discover!

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Ben Nevis via CMD

IMG_5877  It was May 2016  that me and my good hiking friend Neil decided we would like to take on Britain’s highest peak Ben Nevis. Sitting at 1345m it looks impressive from the main town of Fort William in Scotland, although one side looks very calm and forgiving (whats commonly known as the Tourist route) there is another side, ‘the North face’ which is much more intimidating, harsh and unforgiving. There are several routes that can be climbed on the north face with the right equipment and experience, however we were hiking not climbing so decided to do a route neither of us had done before called Carn Mor Dearg Arete. On a clear day (which we had) this is a truly spectacular route incorporating two Munros with stunning views as far as your eye can see. It does however include a ride walk along the arete which is an easy scramble but still caution must be taken as the drops either side are, lets use the word impressive! If anyone has done Crib Goch in Snowdon it’s not that bad but you get a similar feel of exposure. We based ourselves at a lovely well kept camp site at Glen Nevis I would recommend it to anyone it has lovely facilities a fantastic on site restaurant and bar serving some great hearty food.

We set off in the morning after a filling sausage sandwich cooked on my stove, drove a short distance to a small car park for the north face got our rucksack on and put our best foot forward.

The following video will show some of the routes highlights, unfortunately it’s before I got the hang of filming, sound and editing so it’s not amazing but at least you can get a feel for this Scottish giant and thankfully share in the breathtaking views we were lucky enough to enjoy.

I hope you enjoyed this snippet and got a feel what it was like. Ben Nevis is a very popular Mountain and thousands of people summit it each year, however this does not mean its easy.  On our descent we came down the tourist route as we were doing a circular route and despite their being thick snow and ice on the summit and a few hundred metres leading up to it, i still couldn’t belive the amount of folk in inappropriate clothing like trainers, jeans and no real warm or waterproof coats. I thought on the way down i hope everyone makes it off safely today however whilst sat cooling my feet in a stream near the bottom I watched an air ambulance arrive and hover around the summit and realised that maybe they didn’t.

As the famous explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes said “there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”

 

 

 

The Journey Begins

IMG_0282         Thanks for joining me!

On this site i would like to share with you my life’s adventures in the wilderness. Whether it be mountaineering up and down the snow capped peaks, filming for my ‘cooking in the wilderness’ channel, enjoying wild camping with friends and my son, walks in the countryside with my family & dogs, photography of wildlife and landscapes, gear tests and reviews, bushcraft, fire making and survival skills or Scouting fun with my district, i hope you can all come along with me to share in all the experiences, exploration, fun, excitement, trials, tribulations, successes, failures and knowledge learnt along the path of life. Please take from it as much or as little as you like and feel free to contact me with questions, stories, photos and new discoveries. #exploredreamdiscover

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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