Living in Clovelly North Devon, David Rampling love of art and nature has been with him from a child. Born in Suffolk he tells us of his life and his obsession with all things nature from Suffolk to The Isle of Mull to Lundy Island and finally at peace in North devon.
David Rampling Love of Art and Nature
I have been fascinated by wildlife for as long as I can remember. And a childhood in rural Suffolk brought me into contact with so much of it. I was the weird ’bird boy’ at school, and the two lovely women who ran the school library soon got used to caring for whatever animal I turned up within the morning. Baby rats, Magpies, Jackdaws, Snakes, it could be anything. I read books on wildlife, and how to care for it, voraciously. I learned as much as I could from local Gamekeepers, Eel fishermen, Poachers and bird watchers. I liked to draw, even then, but the school was not for me. I could not concentrate on lessons and spent my time looking out of the window and thinking about wildlife. My father, a scientist, was disappointed at my unwillingness to study the things I was being taught in a school that had no idea how to handle a boy obsessed with nature.
I Learned How to Hunt
I learned how to hunt, and how to poach, quietly at night. My parents had divorced and now I lived with my mother and six siblings and anything I could catch was appreciated by my mother, who cooked many a fine Rabbit pie, Pheasant casserole, or Coypu stew!
I drifted for a few years, taught myself taxidermy from library books, and made a reasonable living at that.
I decided to study agriculture at college, I had no experience of it, farming was not in my family. But I knew I wanted to work outside, with a dog, so I signed up. And at last I found something I wanted to study. No previous experience was not a disadvantage at all, as it meant I was a blank piece of paper. And the more I studied, the more I wanted to learn. The college, and the lecturers, seeing my passion, offered me work on the college farm early in the morning, and in the evenings after college work. I had begun to hunt with hawks by then, and my Sparrowhawk came to college every day with me.
When my course finished, they offered me a full-time job working on the college farm, and within three years I was running the whole thing. Pigs, sheep, cattle, arable…I loved it all.
I Was Offered a Farm to run on the Isle of Mull
I was offered a farm to run on the Isle of Mull, off Scotlands west coast. I jumped at the chance. And soon had Golden Eagles soaring over my sheep fields. It was as if I had died and gone to heaven. The scenery, the wildlife, the coastline, the shellfish. And SO many rabbits. And when not working on the farm, I was hunting with my hawk and my working Collies. After three years I fancied a change and moved to Scotlands east coast, to run another big farm, with pedigree Highland cattle, a pheasant shoot, a Deer Park and a Fly fishing trout farm all attached. And still, I hunted and flew hawks, whenever I could. Adjacent to the farm was one of the UK’s first ‘falconry centres’, which was part of the reason I took the job in the first place. And in my spare time, I learned how to manage a whole team of hawks and do flying demonstrations. Those first shows were terrifying for a shy boy like me. But I practised until I got good at it, and was no longer shy.
I Wanted to Come Home to England
After a few years, I wanted to come home to England, and my advert in the ‘Farmers Weekly’ ( pre-internet) stated ‘Experienced shepherd with good working collie seeks lambing position in the south-west’. And the first phone call I got was to offer me the job as a shepherd on Lundy Island. Now, you may not be aware that Lundy Island is a special place for falconers like me. The Peregrine falcons who live there are birds of myth and legend for us. So I jumped at it…that year, 1993 was one of the best of my life, and it was there I met my second wife and mother to my two kids. I was only supposed to be there for the spring, but I stayed for a year. It was on Lundy started to draw again. No Tv or other distractions, and when I started drawing I could not stop. My stepmother sent me some paints, and a book on art and that was it…I have not stopped painting from that day to this.
I married and had two kids. Moved to the Devon mainland and travelled around doing shows with my hawks. I also worked for the council as the Animal Welfare officer for our local council just in time for ‘Foot and mouth’ to rear its ugly head.
I Knew the Stanbury’s
I knew the Stanbury’s, who own and run The Milky Way Adventure Park, thanks to the small bird of prey centre they had there. I knew they were good people to work for, and they offered me the centre to run in the new year of 2001. For nearly two decades I have done their summer bird demos with my ever-growing team of hawks, falcons, eagles, owls and vultures, and I can hardly believe my luck. It has allowed me to hone my painting skills, and push the envelope of what can be done with a team of birds, reared and flown on home soil. Now, falconers come from all over the UK and beyond to see my birds fly and to learn how they can be given extended periods of free time to explore the countryside, hunt for themselves, and still return home at a set time to start a show.
And Now in My Mid Fifties
And now, in my mid fifties, I paint non stop. I have a busy website sending my paintings and prints all over the world. I illustrate falconry books. I get to catch my own tea with my hawks in the winter, and teach people about birds of prey and their place in our ecology in the summer. I can hardly believe my luck. I get paid to do all that..
And I live in Clovelly. A village I saw for the first time appearing out of the sea mist on a boat trip from Lundy Island. My cottage is so old the walls are like skin, a living breathing structure. And I paint. It has truly been a charmed life..and sometimes I have to pinch myself….
Find Out More David Rampling love of art and nature
For more art work from David Rampling go to https://ramplingart.co.uk/
If you would like to know more about Falconry here are two websites that may be useful
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The world will carry on in the future, we will still be here working buying keep the faith and look forward.