Little did I think that on a freezing plateau in the Cairngorms a year ago, my photo portrait of a mountain hare would lead me to winning the mammal category of the first photographic competition of the League Against Cruel Sports. My prize was a day spent at the League’s stunning wildlife sanctuary, Baronsdown, Somerset and spending time with the singular legend, Bill Oddie.  

Urban vixen Faith, relaxing in the garden - Photo by Mary Patterson (formally Roterman)

Andy Knott, CEO of the League, met me as I drove into the sanctuary. Over a few cups of tea and lively conversation about the current projects of the League, we waited for Bill to arrive from London on the train. My expectations of meeting Bill Oddie, such a “renaissance man” of many talents did not go undiminished. He arrived with a big smile on his face and a few jolly jokes - dressed as you would expect - Hawaiian shirt meets birder camouflage.

Bill Oddie, Mary Patterson and Andy Knott CEO

My few hours with Bill and Paul Tillsley, head of Education and Conservation at the sanctuary, went by so quickly. We toured the sanctuary in the League's land rover, Bill in the front seat asking conservation questions. After a few minutes we came upon a large herd of red deer with juveniles. A wonderful sight to behold in the now golden fields. The terrain is spectacular with ancient hedgerows and a wild expanse of views across the river valley. Our last stop was to see the elusive dormouse. Alas, no creature was found in their nesting boxes, but you can’t expect to see everything on a first visit. The League has over 50 boxes of these endangered animals that they monitor. 

A delightful picnic lunch, provided by the League for all of us was a fitting way to end this most memorable day. Indeed, it supports everything I have seen and heard of the League recently and it is incredibly uplifting to see a Charity that is so focused on protecting animals. Thank you to Andy, Paul and his wife and lastly, thank you Bill for sharing the day with us and charming us utterly.

Mary Patterson (formally Roterman) - Winner of the Marvellous Mammals category of the League's first annual Photography Competition.