Eric Ashby: the film-maker
Eric Ashby (1918 – 2003) shared his love of the New Forest with the world through his wildlife films. He believed that wild animals should be filmed behaving naturally, and his high standards of still photography and film-making in the wild became his hallmark.
Eric Ashby worked on many wildlife programmes for the BBC natural history unit. He was an extraordinarily patient man, visiting a site on 90 occasions to record just one minute of film about a badger. He was one of the first to capture the behaviour of badgers in daylight and also developed soundproof camera boxes that allowed him to get close to deer without the animals taking fright.
It took four years of work for him to shoot enough sequences for his first 45-minute film, The Unknown Forest, which was shown by the BBC in 1961. A unique portrait of real animal lives, it was warmly received by viewers, who were able to see how badgers, deer and foxes in the New Forest behaved.
Two years later he filmed The Major, the life story of a village oak tree and the first wildlife film to be shot in colour.
Other films followed, among them A Hare’s Life, A Forest Diary and The Private Life Of The Fox. He produced work for The Year of the Deer and At Home With Badgers. There was also a biographical piece, The Silent Watcher.
An ardent conservationist, he founded the first local Badger Group in 1969 and was outspoken in his views against hunting. His secluded home in Linwood became a haven for some 30 wild foxes from rescue centres. Visitors from around the world came to see how Eric and his wife Eileen cared for them. They raised a cub called Tiger and told his story in a book My Life With Foxes (2000).