Doing What Monty Does

PUBLISHED: 17:46 29 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:33 20 February 2013

Doing What Monty Does

Doing What Monty Does

Monty Halls's latest Great Escape takes place from a shop in Dartmouth. Harriet Mellor went along to find out more.<br/><br/>Photos by Andy Lloyd

Doing What Monty Does

Monty Hallss latest Great Escape takes place from a shop in Dartmouth. Harriet Mellor went along to find out more. Photos by Andy Lloyd

Oh to be like Monty Halls telly presenting, adventuring and integrating into remote communities of wildlife and people. Now its possible to do a little bit of what Monty does with the man himself at the helm. His latest Great Escape takes place from a shop in Dartmouth that has the same name as his TV series. From this hub, the action man is connecting the area with his own extensive expertise, running short courses, training and putting on excursions above and under the water.

"I like to think of the shop as a little haven or an expedition base camp for like-minded people who are passionate about natural history, filming, diving, the underwater world and the wildlife of the South Devon coast."

For those with aspirations behind the camera, Monty has lined up courses in British wildlife photography, natural history filmmaking and production, and underwater camera work.

"Our aim is to give people a glimpse of the business in the most beautiful setting imaginable. Over the past few years Ive worked with some amazing cameramen and film producers, and the idea is theyll come down to Dartmouth and run courses so that people can glean top tips from the best in the business. Theyll learn the basic principles, such as how we get the shots and the gear we use, and be encouraged to go out and try filming themselves."

Nature-lovers who hanker for the spotlight can have a go at learning what Monty describes as the crucial first steps needed to do his dream job.

"The Introduction to TV Presenting includes how to interview and pitch to commissioning editors. Then we go out in the boat, ramble the cliff path and do presenting pieces to camera the whole shebang, even creating a show reel."

So why is Monty embarking on this new and comparatively static venture? Whether its a Great Escape to Ireland, the West Coast of Scotland, the Hebrides or swimming with sharks in Australia, he and often his sidekick, Reuben the rescue dog are often onscreen and always on the move somewhere.

The answer lies behind the scenes, where there are two other extremely significant members of the Monty roadshow: his girlfriend Tamsyn Smith and their baby, Isla.

Isla was born last December in fitting form, during filming for Montys last series, The Fishermans Apprentice in Cadgwith, Cornwall and Monty especially felt the need to spend 2012 away from telly in order to put down some roots.

"All four of us are great at travelling en masse Isla was born on location, so shes a good Cornish lass, and Reubs is so adaptable at jumping in the back of the car and being entirely nomadic but thats what were now trying to get away from. Its fantastic doing the filming and such a privilege, but Ive been incessantly travelling for the past five years.

"Coming to Dartmouth has been a bit of a statement, that this is us settling. We want to grow old and mad here!"

Monty is a Westcountry boy, having grown up in both Cornwall and Somerset and latterly resident in Bristol for filming, but it was a couple of stints spent living in Dartmouth that had the most impact.

"I was at the Naval College in 1987, then back again as a Marines physical training officer in 1995, so Im sort of returning to my naval roots. I had many great days out on the river and many a great night out, played for the local rugby club plus when I was young we came here for family holidays. Dartmouth is like that it leaves an indelible mark and always draws me back."

The Great Escapes venture is not purely trading in on his television fame it is an amalgamation of all Montys talents, training, previous jobs and even long-held dreams.

"I left the Marines in 1996 and went to Plymouth to do a marine biology degree. To fund it, I ran lots of expeditions to different places, then I became manager of a conservation expeditions company and then set up my own company organising round-the-world trips, which would cover Top 10s, such as wildlife encounters or shipwrecks. When Channel Five asked if they could accompany us, the telly side took off."

Coming full circle with some of the above, Monty has discovered another niche corporate training.

"Ive hooked up with a couple of old mates from the Marines whove got a lot of experience and weve been getting a good response. Using Dartmouth as a base, were putting on packages for businesses covering everything from team dynamics to problem-solving and leadership."

Diving is another huge element of the new business and a pursuit that links Tamsyn to being a part of it.

"Tam is a diver who originally worked in production management, event management and projects prior to this weve also got a company called Seadog Productions, where we produce underwater films and which we want to keep doing as a separate entity.

"Diving off Dartmouth is massively underrated. Once you get beyond the mouth of the river, the substrate is quite hard and rocky and visibility is good, and you get large animals loads of dolphins, plenty of grey seals and there are basking sharks. Id like to get involved with tagging, which fits in with my marine biology side."

This might all sound rather action-packed and specialist, but Monty certainly doesnt want to be elitist. There are also many pursuits for normal mortals, like regular wildlife and shore walks, boat trips, special picnicking trips that combine nature and Devon food, and RIB excursions to sea forage for ones own fish lunch. A new training course in local wildlife is also gaining much momentum.

By Montys own admission, "multi-tasking like Billy O" and juggling family with work is proving quite exhausting, but theres no dampening of his enthusiasm for the town.

"Wherever I am, people have always heard of Dartmouth. There is a universal affection for the place and its good to be part of that.

"Ive always wanted to do this and to run my own boat out of a South Devon town even before TV presenting. Id always say that Im absolutely a diver and a marine biologist first. U"

Monty Halls Great Escapes, 4 Market Street, Dartmouth TQ6 9QE

01803 431858

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