Saturday, 29 December 2012

A message of hope for 2013 ~

This is a page from my diary of February 1992 ~ nearly twenty-one years ago. It was the day I can truly say that I started to recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was camping in the mountains of South Africa with my friend, Rebecca Hunter, who was recovering from injuries caused by a terrible road accident.


'Damaraland' a water-colour by Sophie Neville

I hope you can read the original ~


Having been a teacher, Rebecca went on to write numerous wonderful books for children ~
click on: Books by Rebecca Hunter

Damaraland, Namibia

Friday, 21 December 2012

Alastair Fothergill's new DisneyNature movie about chimpanzees

The official trailer for DisneyNature's 'Chimpanzee' ~ a wildlife documentary

Coming out nationwide in the UK on Friday 3rd May

The latest DisneyNature feature-length epic movie Chimpanzee from wildlife writer/director Alastair Fothergill (one of my friends who appears in the book 'Funnily Enough') opened to great reviews in the United States this year, and is due to reach our cinema screens in the United Kingdom in spring 2013.

It is narrated by comedy actor and producer Tim Allen, the voice of 'Buzz Lightyear' in Toy Story, and star of the hit U.S. TV sitcom Home Improvement.

For the Cineworld website, please click here

Friday, 14 December 2012

My mother and her otters

Daphne Neville with her tame otter Bee
Daphne Neville
who has been working in otter conservation from 1981


In 1981 we learnt from a survey conducted by English Nature that there was a disastrous decline in the native population of otters in England and Wales. It was estimated that there were only 80 pairs left whilst Scotland was maintaining about 6,000 otters.  

My mother took it upon herself to raise public awareness of our aquatic eco-systems. Over the years she has been asked to hand rear a number of zoo-breed Asian short-clawed otters who have delighted the public whilst acting as ambassadors for their species. Thousands of adults and children have met the otters and learnt how the public can help encourage the revival of our native species - often about a topic they have not considered before.

Daphne Neville's tame otter Bee
Our first tame otter ~ called Bee, as otters smell of honey



It's clear that England and Wales were about to lose their native otters when Mum began working.  This major British mammal species is now reviving thanks to recognition that we need pure river water and undisturbed river banks. My parents advise farmers on how to accommodate wild otters and encourage the public to pick up litter, control their dogs, and drive slowly along lanes at night to reduce road casualties. They have been able to convey the difficult concept of water quality by taking otters to occasions such as the Water UK conference and The Otter Forum at the Natural History Museum.  The decline of otters in England and Wales related entirely to pollution: the discharge of industrial waste such as chemicals used in the manufacture of carpets entering the River Severn, farming effluent from slurry pits and slippage pits, sheep dip and indiscriminate use of PCBs and DDT insecticides. Otters are a vital indicator species, their health directly reflecting the health of British rivers.

Daphne Neville with her tame otter Bee
Daphne Neville with Bee the Otter

The work is physically demanding – it requires travelling long distances, working long hours in all weathers, getting soaking wet, then camping on site - but Mum always finds the energy to give a child her full attention, even when totally exhausted at the end of a long day.

The rewards? One man told her that he had just completed a zoology degree, having been inspired by a talk she gave at his primary school years ago. That was enough. She has done much to educate inner-city adults and children who know nothing about otters. When she appeared at Countryside Live, on the Olympic site at Hackney Marshes in North London, I heard people look at an otter and ask, ‘Is it a squirrel?’, ‘Is it a rat?’ and ‘Does it eat vegetables?’

My drawings of our tame otters can be seen here.
with further sketches on this page.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Building boats ~ and renovating classic craft

Alastair Fothergill
Alastair Fothergill researching a documentary on the Thames

Men who have enjoyed reading Funnily Enough tell me that they are interested to know more about my father's boats.
Martin Nveille


What appealed to them was Dad's enthusiasm for classic design and his energy for renovating vintage hulls.

Martin Neville in his Humber Yawl on Windermere in Cumbria


In 1991 Dad was engrosed in completing a Humber Yawl, which he had designed and built himself. We ended up taking her to the Lake District where he sailed down Windermere despite the fact that there seemed to be no wind. I prefered rowing her.


Sophie Neville Neville rowing in the Cotswolds

Cassy was a beautiful vessel. You could also use her with an ourboard, but she proved very much a one-man concern. Almost as soon as she had been finished my father was after a new project. He bought the hull of a 1912 river launch that came down on a trailer from Scotland and immediately began doing her up.

Martin Neville with his 1912 River Launch on the River Thames


The Ottor, as Dad christened her, replaced Dad's rather fragile steamboat - a lovely vessel that as far as my mother was concerned ran silently and had a fire on board. At first my she was not keen on the idea of a noisy diesel engine but Ottor was a comfortable launch and Mum was happy once out on the Thames where there is lots to do and see.

Martin Neville with his Humber Yawl in the Cotswolds

For more about Martin Neville and his books and boats
please click on http://martinneville.wordpress.com/about/

If you wish to use any photographs please contact sophie@sophieneville.co.uk