Wildlife Safari with Ed Drewitt

wildlife, Tudor Farmhouse Hotel. Clearwell, Forest of Dean
By Travel Journalist WENDY GOMERSALL The first thing that stunned me most about great British wild boars – when they eventually pitched up – was their sheer size. I was expecting a kind of roughty-toughty pot-bellied pig-sized animal, not so cute, a bit hairy and grubby. How could something bigger possibly hide itself in the ancient woodlands of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire? Even if you couldn’t see his massive shadow as he rummaged around the underground, surely the sound of crunching leaves and twigs, not to mention exuberant snorting and snuffling, would be a giveaway. As the sun’s heat seeped away and twilight arrived, brilliant naturalist, broadcaster and wildlife detective Ed Drewitt led our little group of animal lovers into the woods. We’d met up at the Tudor Farmhouse in Clearwell, which organizes these regular Wildlife Safaris around the Forest of Dean, and what fun they are – I loved my first so much I booked a private trip with a group of friends a few weeks later. What didn’t we see that first time? Beautiful little fallow deer trembling in the grass and favourite birds including song thrushes, blackbirds and robins. If you’re lucky, hedgehogs are also on the list of spots and thrillingly, gorgeous mini bats flitting overhead with the help of an electronic Bat Detector – that went straight on my Christmas list. So where were the 1,200 resident boars? Ed showed us plenty of evidence of their presence – trails well worn by armies of trotters, mud wallows where hot piggies roll around, bare earth churned up by rootling snouts. Then, at last, there they were, pootling across the track behind us, two or three mega mums and their teeny, fluffy boarlets, striped like humbugs, little hooves going like the clappers to keep with the grown-ups. The biggest boar, surely the size of a chunky Alsatian, stopped to stare at us for a while, then shepherded the troupe up the bank to disappear again into the dusk… We were thrilled. Back at the Tudor Farmhouse, we tucked into charcuterie boards full of succulent local meats and cheeses and toasted our sightings with a glass of chilled white. GETTING THERE Tudor Farmhouse’s three-hour Wildlife Safari costs from £40pp, with charcuterie board and glass of wine. Join a group departure – 22 February, 14 March, 21 March, 28 March, 2 May, 16 May in 2020 – or book a private excursion, from £150 for six people, subject to availability. Call 01594 833046, tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk. For more on the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley, visit wyedeantourism.co.uk