19th November 1996 - 22nd November 1996
I was with cameraman/producer Manual Hinge, we had set off early to cross the channel to Cherberg, then drove to Moulins in Central France. We were here to film and sound record a Wild Boar hunt, which in this area they do with packs of hounds. This was to be a sequence in a BBC Wildlife on One film on Wild Boars, filmed and produced by Manuel. On the drive south not much seen, except for lots of Kestrels and a Barn Owl. We arrived at the cottage, on a private estate, east of Moulins, late in the afternoon.
We spent all day on the estate, mainly near the woodland, there was a hunt today and the beaters were already out, the hunters on horses and the hound pack had gathered in an open area waiting to give chase. They had told Manuel and me where they thought the hunt would pass, so we took up positions. This was very hit and miss, they did drive a couple of boar, but not very close and I mainly recorded horses crashing through the trees! Manuel was a bit closer as a boar came through and managed to get some film. We returned to the group only to find that a boar had killed one of the hounds and no boars were caught today.
Later, I learnt that there were 2 captive Wild Boar in an enclosure nearby, so I spent a couple of hours getting some usable sound, especially as they charged past and towards me at the fence. The woodland held lots of common birds, and of note, I saw Marsh Tits, Nuthatches and 2 Hawfinches.
We returned to the area of yesterday's hunt, for Manuel to film some cut-aways and me to record some atmospheres, apart from the usual woodland birds we saw a Red Squirrel and 3 Roe Deers in the open area. Then at the estate farm there were lots of Chaffinches and a Tawny Owl.
In the afternoon the estate owner took us to another nearby estate. As we approached Chateau St. Augustine we saw a large, wide, grand building with a walled courtyard at the front. Through the impressive entrance we saw almost the entire courtyard area contained high fencing, which housed several Lions, so we had to drive around the edge of the compound to get to the front door.
We were met by the owner, an elderly lady, who invited us into the house. Although the building was huge from the front, it was very narrow and our host took us through to the garden at the rear, there we were amazed to find a private zoo, there were cages and animals everywhere, she was obviously fond of lemurs, and, there were several Ring-tailed Lemurs in and out of the cages, we were also followed around the collect by a large Rhea, which occasionally would peck the back of your head!
After tea, our host took us on a drive through a woodland on the estate, here she kept 100's of Wild Boars, she said there were a 1,000 in the whole estate. The boars in this area were used to being fed by her and as she rattled a bag of food boars appeared from everywhere, this was great for Manuel to film, but, not so good for me as our host talked continuously, there were some great sounds all with a French commentary! I moved further down the track, but, the boar were more spread out and the initial excitement reduced, however, I did manage a clear recording.
Later, we packed up the Land Rover ready for our return drive in the morning.