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Johnny Kingdom is a wildlife expert and filmmaker who has grown up and lived in Exmoor all his life. His knowledge of wildlife and the area of the West Country is second to none, and he's a national treasure (at least he should be, if he isn't already!). It is always a delight to watch Johnny's wildlife programmes on TV, so when I heard this book was going to be released I jumped at the chance to review it.
Johnny Kingdom's West Country Tales is a nice leisurely read through West Country myths and legends, as well as anecdotes from Johnny and his family, ancestors, friends and people he's met along the way. Even something that happened to Johnny and a friend has turned into a local myth!
West Country Tales had me laughing by the end of the first page. Now, how's that for a cracking start to a book? His love for wildlife and nature is weaved into these tales and the book is written in the same style of how Johnny talks, so its almost as if I can hear him telling me the story as I read it.
In the book Johnny mentions that many years ago a drunk farmer would be heaved onto his horse and his feet tied together under the animal so he wouldn't fall off. They'd then send the farmer on his way, knowing that the horse knew his way home. Late last year, I was told a very similar story about my own great great great grandfather... He'd like a drink or several down at the pub and would often be put up on his horse & cart and sent on his way home with the reins wrapped around his arm. Unfortunately for him, one night he never made it home. He met his end on one of those journeys home when he fell off the cart and hit his head. Anyway, back to the book...
There's tales of smugglers and highwaymen, pixies and goblins, witches and ghosts, as well as murder and mystery, times gone by and more recent happenings. We learn about Johnny's younger days and his life now, and his quest for getting a photo of a cuckoo that had been evading him for so long, almost mocking him.
Johnny Kingdom is a wonderful, knowledgeable character and he's great at telling tales and the like. Whether you're interested in British wildlife, the West Country or tales of myth and legend, I'd highly recommend this book. My Dad is already waiting to borrow it!