Hundreds turned out on Sunday to bid farewell to larger than life ‘wild man of Exmoor’ Johnny Kingdom.
With a wreath of Exmoor heather and flowers and his beloved hat placed on his coffin, the presenter, author and wildlife expert made his final journey through the streets of his home at Bishops Nympton on a traditional hand cart accompanied by his family.
His funeral was held at St Mary’s Church in the village, with the Exmoor flag fluttering at half mast in the grounds and the recorded sounds of Exmoor stags echoing around the churchyard.
The 79-year-old was killed when a digger rolled over on his land on the edge of Exmoor, where he captured countless photographs and hundreds of hours of video footage of wildlife.
The service was conducted by Reverend Alastair Forman, who described Johnny as the ‘heart and soul’ of the community.
Hundreds travelled from far and wide to celebrate his life, many dressed in black but also plenty in country clothes or their camouflage gear.
Rev Forman read a tribute about Johnny’s early life, on behalf of his wife Julie and the family.
Producer David Parker spoke about his television and writing career, while his granddaughter Roxy read a poem and local artist Jason Toft played a song.
The congregation filed out of the church to Walk the Line by Johnny Cash.
Paying tribute following his death, Johnny’s family said: “A legend has been lost. Johnny would want you all to continue with his love for Exmoor, as you all meant so much to him. As the loving man himself would have said, ‘farewell to all you lovely people’.”
He leaves behind his wife Julie, his childhood sweetheart who he married in 1963, and sons Stuart and Craig, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Numerous local mayors attended the service. South Molton mayor Christine Lock said Johnny had ‘put North Devon on the map’.
She added: “He was a man that loved the countryside, he brought North Devon to the forefront and publicised Devon to its utmost. He was a well-loved person.”
Johnny wrote several books, including Bambi and Me about his rescue and fostering of an abandoned fawn, as well as three other books about Exmoor wildlife and a collection of stories called West Country Tales.
In 2006 his first series on BBC 2, A Year On Exmoor, was watched by more than three million people.
A new BBC series, Johnny’s New Kingdom, aired in 2008 after he had purchased land on Exmoor, and in 2015 he presented a four-part series for ITV called Johnny Kingdom’s Wild Exmoor.
There was also a one-off special when he headed to the wilds of Alaska to film bears.