A hugely respected wildlife photographer, Eric Ashby provided a pioneering view of the British countryside with his work revolutionising the way wildlife was shown on television. Interested in animals from a young age, Eric completed numerous field studies and at the age of sixteen, published an article in Boy's Own Paper on bird photography. Spending his pocket money on a cheap cine-camera, Eric began filming house-martins and cuckoos.
After spending the Second World War farming in Devon, Eric continued his filming and settled permanently in The New Forest, an area which he deeply loved. Filming wild animals around his home, Eric came up with several technical innovations, including a home-made sound-proof box to disguise the noise of his camera's mechanism.
In 1959, his article on wild deer in The Countryman brought Eric to the attention of the newly formed BBC Natural History Unit (NHU). The BBC team found his work breathtaking. Eric had gathered extensive footage of a number of wild mammals, and had even recorded badger behaviour in natural light, a feat widely thought to be impossible.
Eric's debut film, The Unknown Forest (1961) was based on this initial work and was hugely successful, becoming a landmark production in the history of the NHU. Eric was dubbed 'The Silent Watcher' by Peter Scott as he refused to shoot in controlled conditions, investing large amounts of time and patience to filming animals naturally in the wild. This became the title of his next television piece, Look: The Silent Watcher (1961).
1963 saw Eric filming The Major, the life story of a village oak tree, and the first wildlife film to be shot in colour. An ardent conservationist, Eric founded the first local Badger Group in 1969, and has always spoken out against hunting groups. Throughout the 1970s Eric continued filming native British animals, producing work for the Wildlife On One strand, including The Year of the Deer (1977), and At Home With Badgers (1978).
Eric published two well-known books, both illustrated with his own photographs, The Secret Life of the New Forest (1989) and My Life with Foxes (2000). Eric Ashby received the Royal Geographical medal in 1967 for his films, and in 1992 was appointed MBE for his work with wildlife.