Homeward bound

Heading home today to try to help make a difference for young people in Wigan.

I was incredibly lucky to have brilliant support in the early part of my career.

The photo above was taken in 1978 when I was a cub reporter on the Evening Post and Chronicle. I learned an ocean of knowledge from my magnificent colleagues which gave me the confidence to venture into the wider world of journalism.

Hopefully telling my story will help motivate others to make a success of the opportunities they’re given.

The photograph with Her Majesty is a proud moment in my career when I was invited to Buckingham Palace along with other broadcasters.

It’s been quite the journey for me and I am delighted to be given the opportunity to share my experiences.

Perhaps you could also get involved with Youth Zones in your area. Let me know if I can help put you in touch.

These are the challenges some young people face in my hometown and what is being done to try to help them…

Wigan is ranked in the top 30% of local authorities for deprivation. The town suffers from higher than the national average levels of worklessness, smoking, excessive alcohol intake and nearly 27% of the population are obese.

This is the context for young people growing up in the area and at least in part explains why Wigan has growing levels of children with special educational needs, higher levels of children living in poverty, more children in need and increasing numbers of children going missing from home (Wigan Borough Council 2017).

This in turn has a knock on effect on educational attainment in the town. Wigan Youth Zone works with children and young people in their formative years (8-19 years of age and 25 for people with disabilities) and aims to counter the negative influences in the environment and replacement them with belief, confidence and ambition for the future.

We aim to make a difference every time a young person walks through our doors and by doing so we give young people a chance to enjoy their childhood, get a better start to life and prepare for adulthood.

Out of Africa – with lifelong memories

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Hello everyone,

Each time we travel on safari, every year since 1999, we always return home full of tales of how life-affirming our experiences have been in the African bush.

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From my first trip to Botswana to our now regular family visits to Ulusaba we love swapping the hustle and bustle, and occasional challenge, of city life for a game drive spent relaxing in an open-sided vehicle watching the Big 5.

Lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino are all magnificent beasts to see in the wild, but the bush offers much more.

My particular favourite are warthog! I know. But, the way they trot along with their tales high so the little ones can spot them in the long grass always makes me chuckle.

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I also love giraffe. Calm and majestic they move through the Bush as if on casters. Unless a pride of lionesses has taken a fancy and then watch them gallop.

Other magnificent animals to have captured our attention are the mischievous monkeys, elusive cheetah and Hyena who have a bad rap because of Disney.

Zebra, or disco donkeys as we call them, always cause a whoop of excitement when spotted trotting through the Bush

Most of us will originally head on safari to see the king of the jungle.  Be prepared. Lions are often described as 200kg of disappointment.

That’s because they do little more than sleep during the day hunting when humans are fast asleep.

Leopards can have a similar outlook.

Occasionally though an impala, wildebeest, kudu or even lone old buffalo will fall prey. It can be a shocking but fascinating sight. Nature at its most raw.

One of our most memorable sightings was a pack of wild dogs, in itself a rare sighting, chasing an impala.

The antelope leapt for its life into the water only to be drowned by hippo – not one of the big 5, but nevertheless the biggest killer of humans in Africa.

Hippo though are herbivores so had no interest in eating the impala. A nearby crocodile decided it was his lucky day and managed to distract the hippo pod and snatch the prey before making off with his dinner. I know, I know. You wouldn’t have believed me unless I had a photo…

Every trip to the bush, every day, every single game drive offers something different to make all your senses pulse.  Time slows to a standstill. Your bond with nature feels unbreakable.

Hope these photographs taken by son Alexander Kutner whet your appetite for a trip to  the most magical place on earth.

Meet A Cheetah

Cheetah are beautiful but elusive animals here in Sabi Sands. They are more prevalent in Kenya and Tanzania.

Not one of the Big 5, nevertheless they are a must see on any safari mission.

Cheetah walk extremely long distances and so can be difficult to track. This male is around seven years old and has a territory of 80 sq km. That’s a huge area for our Ulusaba ranger team to traverse. But, once again they didn’t disappoint.

We found this male, the only one in the east of Sabi Sands in a clearing to the south of the area. He was pretty chilled and allowed us to travel alongside him for a while.

Cheetah can travel at 120 km/h. Have non-retractable claws for better grip and are good at climbing trees when necessary – away from the danger of predatory lions.

We were lucky enough to have previously seen this cheetah last September. Before that we hadn’t seen him for five years.

Hope you enjoy these images from Wolfie Kutner. Follow him on Instagram @wolfiekutner and see my instastory @kayburley_ for our adventures in Africa

Hornier the better. Rhinos are back…

Hello everyone,

There was a time not too long ago when I feared I would never see rhino in the wild again.

They were being hunted almost to extinction by poachers who would butcher the animal for its horn, sometimes as its calf stood petrified next to the mother. It would then be sold for $65,000 per kilo on the black market to ridiculously vulnerable customers who thought powdered rhino horn could improve their libido.

Rhino horn is keratin. That’s hair or fingernails. It doesn’t give you a better sex life. It does though protect rhinos from predators and each other. They can live into their 50s if they’re left alone.

Thanks to the anti-poaching patrols at Sabi Sands that’s increasingly likely. These boys are tough and determined and don’t take lightly to those who would massacre these majestic animals.

Poachers beware.

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Capturing wildlife

My son has always been a fan of wildlife. Since he was a very young child.

His passion has developed steadily over the years. So much so that I wouldn’t dream of visiting Ulusaba, Sir Richard Branson’s game reserve in Sabi Sands without him. Or his friends Edd and Matt and James…

They reward me with witty banter, fun and lots of hugs.

Alexander goes even further and takes some of the most spectacular photographs. Here are a few you may enjoy.

Don’t underestimate an angry elephant…

Day Two at Ulusaba

There’s nothing more relaxing than watching elephants chew their way through grassland while you’re sitting comfortably in a open-sided game vehicle.  Until a grumpy female wants to pick a fight.

Elephant herds by definition are predominantly female.  From the matriarch – the eldest and wisest of the herd – right through the ranks.

Males head off when they reach puberty and tend to settle into a loose affiliation with other males.  A male elephant in musth is full of testosterone and fury so best to give them a wide berth.

The bigger herds though are generally more relaxed and will happily tolerate a game vehicle joining the party.  However, as with humans, when one of the females is having a bad day she will certainly let you know.  That’s what happened to me today.  She gave me quite a scare…

Not quite as scared as this lone buffalo would have felt when he found himself surrounded by a pride of lion.

Nevertheless, he stood his ground and despite a young lioness fancying her chances, her aunt advised caution of the big old bull and he lived to roam the savannah for another day.

Heading back to camp I was delighted to see my all time favourite animal.  Not a leopard, lion or giraffe – though they are my second favourite – but, warthog!

They were a very long way away but it was still wonderful to see them scurrying through the Bush, their little tales in the air.

This afternoon we’re going fishing…

Life in the African Bush

Well, we arrived at ulusaba safe and sound.

The British Airways international flight was a little bumpy but as usual we were looked after royally by the cabin crew.  As it’s my son’s birthday treat I decided to buy posh seats and we weren’t disappointed.

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There was even a celebrity onboard.  Stunningly beautiful supermodel Naomi Campbell wafted into her seat and managed to look magical the whole flight.

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I, however, was a sweaty, nervous flyer mess.  Thankfully, the crew were brilliant and calmed all of my concerns.  As my BA hunks always say to me, you’ll break before the plane does.  I think that’s meant to be comforting…

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A restless sleep later and we were in Africa. Just the tense, hour long hop up to Ulusaba and we were on the deck drinking champagne and chattering excitedly about what we hoped to see on our first drive.

Check out some of our sightings from our first game drive below.  There are plenty of videos on my Insta story highlights including rhino, giraffe hippo and buffalo.

 

My photos are average.  My son’s @wolfiekutner on instagram are brilliant.

We are already settling in and and have already even managed to work out…

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