Following in the footsteps of showbiz chum and Neighbour Paul O' Grady, the campiest Comedian in town, Mr Julian Clary has entered the arena of warm hearted nature programming on ITV. I caught both of the first episodes on catch up and thus share some of the amazing characters and images from those episodes!
The idea is simple, Amateur Wildlife enthusiasts with a penchant for filming and photographing their favourite animals and birds take Julian under their wing to see the object of their passions and in return he gets a professional film crew to photograph the element of the lifestyle from the creature that, no matter how hard they try, they just cannot capture with their equipment.
A simple premise one would think, but thus far it has been an absolute hoot, Clary is the King of the Double Entendre and makes no effort to tone this down for a Sunday teatime audience. Always delivered with a tongue deeply in cheek these little remarks lift the show above the mundane. Julian is obviously passionate about nature as evidenced by his sprawling menagerie and whilst he is gently teasing of his participants (who may be aggressively passionate about their chosen photographic quarry, who maybe are not Nuts as the title suggests!!) He is genuinely interested by the creatures he encounters.I think sometimes these rugged country folk do not really know how to react to the jokes but they should well aware of how naughty he can be when given the opportunity!!
The Grey Seal in Northumberland
Julian travels to Northumberland to meet an enthusiastic General Practitioner, whose love for the Grey Seal, our Largest UK mammal holds no bounds. He and his crusty crew of rough norther sailors take Julian out onto the North Sea off the Farne Islands to seek out some seals.
Julian is not best suited to life aboard a boat and his face when it is suggested that he might need to wee in his wet suit for warmth is met with adamance that it will be wholly unnecessary! After munching on some chocolate to boost his energy in the freezing water, he is told to rub saliva on his mask and finds himself utterly unable to raise some spit. Just as his adventure is about to start he finds he may well need a Pee after all and his rather reticent entry into the water is due I fear to not being any kind of diver, but any nerves are soon abated one the Seals come to frolic and play and it is really easy to see why this man has spend so long freezing his bits off in the grey waves of the North Sea. Julian's seasickness prevents him returning later that evening to give the opportunity to film Seals at night, a dream p brought to fruition using the newest night vision cameras, but sadly only one Seal comes out to play and is gone in an instant.
The Tawny Owl in Cheshire
After a motorcycle accident left his leg and life in tatters, Dave Cully turned to wildlife for solace and has spent the last 12 years filming and photographing birds of prey and his current love are the beautiful but deceptively vicious, Tawny Owls. he estimates that he has about 7000 hours of footage of these gorgeous birds caught via the sixteen cameras and two kilometres of cabling criss -crossing his acre of woodland in Cheshire which is also home to sixteen different kinds of song birds. He has however been yet unable to capture his owlets pouncing and catching Prey at night as he worries for their survival if they cannot catch prey on the fly.
Tawny owls have eyesight 100 time better than Humans and so catching wood mice should be relatively easy but he has yet to be able to reassure himself that his baby owls are ready to do so! Despite some gorgeous night time footage, the shot alludes then until finally some nights later Dave happens to catch it himself. It is a lovely moment, but maybe not for the mouse that is dinner!
The Dormouse in Kent
Aptly named Hazel Ryan is a wildlife conservationist whose job is to record the numbers of small mammals still in the British Hedgerows. Her absolute favourite though is the dormouse, whose appearance in Alice in Wonderland has made it a firm favourite with Julian. The poor Dormouse has not fared well as habitat has dwindled over the years and I happen to know from my historical studies that Dormouse was a favourite delicacy for the invading Romans and so it is not really surprising that the current UK population is about 40,000 individuals in comparison to about 40 million field mice.
The situation is not best helped by the fact that by spending six whole months in Hibernation, they generally only have one litter a year. Their somnolent behaviour does afford them so increased longevity however, a field mouse might live two years, it is estimated a Dormouse can reach 9 years as long as it has the correct environment and nutrition.
It is the nutrition that Hazel really wants to investigate, in order to make sure she is able to release more dormice back into the wild, she wants to be sure that she is feeding them the right foods most looked for in the wild so Julian arranges for Cameras to be set up whilst Hazel sets up a veritable buffet of Rowan, Hawthorn,Gelder Rose and dogwood hips to see which the mice might gravitate towards. It turns out Hawthorn is the fruit of choice for the discerning Dormouse... So please grow some if you live in rural parts, save the gorgeous little dormouse!
Hazel then travels to Julian's home to look at what might be lurking in his bushes and what it is that might be coming through the fence next to his poultry houses and stealing his plums! After setting some humane traps and setting up some motion sensor cameras, Julian finds that he has field voles, field mice and even shrews in his garden and delightful little chaps they are too, he also finds that his natural visitors include both a badger and a fox, so some fortifications of the fencing might be in order to save his hens and geese from red coated marauders!
His home is also home to some bats in his attic, it is an offence to disturb long eared bats from roost but one that is being rehabilitated after an attack proves the most delightful example and they really are captivating little faces!
Hedgehogs in the Black Country
Here he meets Joan the owner of a "Hedgehog Hosprickal" whose little friend is feeling a little bit under the weather, he has a bit of a loose tummy, but a course of antibiotics will sort him right out. I have to admit to loving Hedgehogs myself and this segment has given me plenty to remember to make sure I can help them in the future if one needs aid.
Never give them cow's milk, they needs a lactose free milk, but cat food will help them to build resources for the winter.
Julian thoroughly enjoys hand feeding the baby hedgehogs with a teeny syringe and it is so sweet to see it's sleepy little face once it's hunger is sated!
Joan is ready to release one of her healthy weight little charges and so a radio tracker is fitted to see just how far the little chap(ess) gets in a night. The farewell is quite emotional for both Joan and the more soft hearted viewer! Julian and Joan play hide and seek to make sure the radio tracker is working! It is, he finds her lurking in the bushes!
Great Tits and Badgers in Lichfield
Julian's sets out to meet a lady whose nest box broadcasts are mesmerising. Julian gets to hold the tiny chicks to keep them warm as they are tagged so that populations can be monitored, but there are some anxious moments as they wait to see if Mum will return to the box now her brood has been disturbed.
Luckily she does and all is well with the Great Tit family so attentions move to the badger sett in a bank close by. As yet none of it's inhabitants had been filmed so Julian sets up a starlight camera and a cheap inflatable tent nearby to act as hide as Justine the expert photographer beams the military adapted camera pictures back to the excited inhabitants within.
Julian goes to see a vintage car mechanic whose remote airfield workshop hides a myriad of natural gems, not least Barn Owls, Little Owls and Water Voles, like a pair of small children at a rock pool, they gleefully enjoy watching the vole munch on Apple rather than frogs legs, proving wrong a theory that some voles eat meat.
Otters in the north and South.
Finally the search for Otters take Julian to Newcastle and Dorset as they search for urban otters and not getting the footage they would like, they travel South West to get some striking images.
Every person Julian met is a ardent lover of wildlife and their willingness to devote hours and hours to creatures rarely seen by most Brits is so inspirational and the affectionate way Julian treats these mild oddballs and joins in their enthusiasm made this show such an enjoyable journey around our British Isles. I cannot wait for the next episodes!