Saturday 29 December 2012

Saturday 22 December 2012

Alastair Fothergill's wildlife movie 'African Cats'

This year Alastair Fothergill, who I was working for at the time I wrote Ride the Wings of Morning, brought out the wildlife movie African Cats produced for DisneyNature. It was filmed entirely on location in the Masai Mara. Each shot is beautiful. Have you seen it? What is quite daunting is that Sarah-Jane and I rode across the same country - on horses.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Sketches of Giraffe

Watching girafffe is an incredibly peaceful activity.

This is possibly because although they seem to be silent, the adults communicate at a frequency we cannot detect.

It's always rather alarming to see how long their tongues are.

It is diffcult to draw them when you are given a regular-sized commission, but not impossible:

I once produced this ink and watercolour to illustrate a brochure.

And this cartoon for a map of horse safaris in the Okavango.

But this quick sketch is perhaps my favorite.

All sketches are featured in 'Ride the Wings of Morning' and are (c) Sophie Neville. Please contact me if you need to use them on

Thursday 13 December 2012

What Ant and Tessa Baber are doing now - two of the characters from 'Ride the Wings of Morning'

Anthony and Tessa Baber, who appear in 'Ride the Wings of Morning' are still running horse safaris in the Waterberg. They have had great success breeding rare species such as Sable Antelope and Livingstone Eland. I was able to take Tamzin out to ride with them for a much needed break from her own livestock. She was thrilled to meet the rhino and was amazed how close Anthony got to them - on foot.

Monday 10 December 2012

Elephants I have known ~

I was once able to spend three days at Abu's Camp in Botswana. This is Abu.

I not only walked with Africa elephants, but we rode them.

What was enchanting was that the young elephants - orphans who had been adopted into the herd - came with us. Having completed these graphics for the Elephant Back Safaris I went on to sketch wild elephants in Damaraland, in Namibia.

I ended up with two sets of silhouettes of elephant walking acorss the desert in single file, as they do, which I sold as limited edition prints and as 'Elephant Writing Paper'. These sold through the David Sheppherd Wildlife Foundation and The Born Free catalogues.

It looks a bit odd without any writing on it. This is how it looked in the catalogue.

And on my own art website.

All sketches are featured in 'Ride the Wings of Morning' and are (c) Sophie Neville. Please contact me if you need to use them on

Friday 30 November 2012

A recent review from a rider ~

5.0 out of 5 stars 

"Ride the Wings of the Morning" is a fabulous read and within a couple of pages I was transported to the African bush. The places and the characters are captured brilliantly. It brings to life some of the reality of life in the bush and the ridiculous situations that you do find yourself in...

Sophie writes with such wit, humility and perception. I did chuckle out loud several times! Even my non-horsey husband enjoyed it as he has had to be dragged around Africa ...   ~ Jane Dawson

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Twenty years ago in Zimbabwe ~

A short extract from 'Ride the Wings of Morning' ~

"I’m now staying with an artist in the Nyanga Highlands, a girl who is married to a British Army officer out here with BMATT who provide military training for the Zimbabwean Forces. They spend their spare time fishing in the Pungwe River or picnicking on gigantic granite boulders while their children splash in the shallows. There are parties here all the time, and unlike in South Africa, where men talk to men and women with women, they actually interact normally. I am assured this isn’t always so in the local community but Zimbabweans tend to be outgoing and rather fun. I went riding with a farmer’s wife called Pixie. She had one little girl called Burgundy and another called Summer Rain. They rode their ponies bareback, jumping them over gates and fences without hesitation. I’m heading for Victoria Falls by train next week and after going down the Zambezi plan to fly up to Lilongwe so I can drive up through Malawi to the Nyika Plateau.

I didn’t realise how bushed I had become at Equus. I hadn’t taken a day off in four months ~ hadn’t used my own money, watched television, worn anything accept khaki clothes, had hardly driven on a tarmac road or been to a town since I was in the Cape. It’s strange adjusting back to life on the open road and making decisions alone. Being able to wear turquoise. Having time for myself."

~ Read more of 'Ride the Wings of Morning' on

All sketches on the blog are featured in 'Ride the Wings of Morning' and are (c) Sophie Neville. Please contact me if you need to use them on

Thursday 1 November 2012

A review from Belgium ~

As a South African living outside of SA at the moment I am really enjoying this book, recognising places Sophie writes about. Sophie Neville and her family have a great sense of humour, and the letters going back and forth between them often have me laughing out loud. The art throughout this book is fantastic.
Tammy Visagie ~ Belgium

Saturday 27 October 2012

More about the horseback safaris described in 'Ride the Wings of Morning'

~ Horizon Horseback Safaris ~

Let me know if you would like to go on one!
We are hoping to put together a sponsored ride acrtoss the Waterberg in South Africa for a week in 2013 to raise funds for the Waterberg Welfare Society Trust.
for details

Saturday 13 October 2012

Now with colour illustrations on Amazon Kindle ~

'Ride the Wings of Morning' ~ the illustred ebook is now in colour
Click on the regional links below for the book's product page on Amazon:
‘But I don’t have a Kindle!’
Don’t worry. You can easily add a free Kindle reading app to your PC, laptop, Android or Apple device and see the illustrations in colour:
If you are in the UK
Click here:
If you live in Africa, you want to download the Kindle app direct from
Go to:
And choose which device you want to download the app to.
All the Kindle reading apps are free.

Friday 12 October 2012

What to take on a horse safari ~

Sun glasses  with a retaining strap
Barbour or thorn-proof raincoat you can tie over the saddle. You can always use this as a ground sheet even if it never rains. Take a light rain jacket if rain is unlikely.
Old riding clothes in earth colours (not red)
Light-weight long-sleeved shirt. Do bring old shirts that you can wear then give away at the end of the trip.
Short-sleeved shirts or 'polo-shirts' (Shirts with collars are better than t-shirts unless you are totally immune to sunburn).
A cardigan or fleece that zips up the front.  
Comfortable old riding breeches or trousers with a belt.
Summer dress
Trainers for walking and tennis.
Sandals or flip-flops. You are not going to wear high heeled shoes. It's too sandy.
Short riding boots with thick rubber soles
Half-chaps for riding. Only take black rubber boots if riding in the Okavango or other wetlands. You only really need full chaps for thornbush country.
Good socks. Lined walking socks are best.
Two pairs of riding gloves. I cut the tops off some of the fingers so I can undo buckles. 
Riding helmet or Hard hat. I have a hot weather one but need to take a shower cap to put over it in case it rains. I've fitted a wide-brimmed tennis visor to the rim with velcro. Click here for one I found that fits. and here for the velcro

You might want to take a bummner but it may not fit the saddle. Some saddles will have fitted ones.
A wide-brimmed sun hat that stays on in an open vehicle. 
Cotton bandana/scarf.
Water bottle. You can always use this as a hot-water bottle at night. I take proper a hot-water bottle for some climates. My own thermos cup.
Small bumbag with Lipsalve
Sun protection cream factor 30 or higher.
Mosquito repellant 
I have a small camera case with a wide belt that proved useful once when my girth broke. 
Phone/camera + charger and adaptor plug. Take one you can easily ride with.
Swimming costume
Night clothes
Elasticated body wraps if you need them.
Wash bag, tissues,
Wet wipes 
A torch
A good book. Diary/sketch book, pens. 
Health insurance documents.
Driving License
Credit/debit card
(Remember not to take a penknife or scissors in your hand-luggage).
You must be in possession of a passport with at least one blank page that is valid for at least six months after your return date. Visa. 
You also need travel and health insurance that allows you to ride without ridiculous exclusions. Make sure your Tetanus inoculation is up to date.
Money. You can usually use cash point machines.
Travel in your riding clothes taking a Day bag for your helmet, chaps, riding gloves for the first two days as your luggage might easily get delayed. No handbags!
If you ring the airline in advance they may give you permission to take sports equipment as extra luggage, but they will ask to see it at the luggage check-in desk. However, try to keep your personal baggage down to 10kgs. Horse safari companies usually supply all the equipment. Sometimes you need your own sleeping bag.

For cold-weather countries:
Puffa jacket/padded waistcoat. This can always double up as a pillow if you are camping.
Woolly hat to keep warm at night.
Hot water bottle

Off you go.

Having said all that, here I am, wearing leather walking boots, shorts and long chaps, no gloves (regretted that in later life) and no helmet. (Regretted that too.)  The cotton thick Australian shirt lasted well.

My little horse Sam was so good in the bush. I never shod him. He'd find game, and was good at avoiding holes. Sadly we poisoned his brain by racing him and he became difficult to stop but he was always a great ride.  

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Book Club comments about 'Ride the Wings of Morning'

'I loved it. It made me laugh. I now know Sophie's family are totally dotty. I enjoyed it.'

'I absolutely loved it.'

'It's terribly important that it is true story.'
'Much more facinating.'
'It's too acute for it to be made up.'
One reader said she sees 'a miniscule part of life that so funny...'

'I don't know one end of a Springbok from another but I love the illustrations.'

'I think it's fantastic; a great book to have by the bed. I kept dipping in.'

'I've spent a lot of time in Africa. I find the letter format a bit disruptive for a long read but it was good fun to dig in and out of. I think the family are hysterical. It's fascinating.'

'It has certainly whetted my appetite for travel.'

'There's an endless demand for animal stories.'

'Tamzin (Sophie's sister) writes very well - it reads well.'

'I don't do letters. They don't keep me awake. Because I have arthritis in my hands I found the paperback too long and too heavy physically - it is very heavy. Literally too heavy weight-wise for holiday reading. I didn't like the double spacing, but I thought the drawings were lovely - what a way to live.'

'The letter format would make it a good train book, perhaps best on Kindle.'

'This book made me feel I wanted to go on an adventure and I liked reading about the Army wife. It's a book you can pick up and put down but I prefered Funnily Enough.'

It was agreed that whilst ride the Wings of Morning stretches the reader into new dimensions on a physical level, Funnily Enough stretches one spiritually.

'I've enjoyed it more than Sophie Neville's first book.'

'My mother loved the first book ~ Funnily Enough. She's quite particular, very particular about what she'll read, and she was really thrilled with it.'

Monday 1 October 2012

Questions for Book Clubs ~

Tonight the Quay Book Club will be discussing 'Ride the Wings of Morning'.

Here are a few questions from the author:

1. 'Ride the Wings of Morning' has been put together from letters sent between Sophie, who was travelling in Southern Africa, and her family back in Europe. Do you think this works as a format?

2. This is a true story. How much does that matter?  How would you feel if you were told it was a novel?

3. Being real life there are hundreds of characters. Who was your favorite? Which relationships interested you most?

4. If it was a novel the narrative would probably be stronger, there would be a plot and probably more romance. Real life panned out in a different way. Did you still find it a satisfying read?

5. There are about 240 illustrations in the paperback - more in the Kindle version where many are in colour. Do you like the idea of illustrated books for adults?

6. What age groups do you think would most enjoy the book?

7. Would you recommend this book as holiday reading or a for someone ill in bed?

8. Do you think this book would make a good gift?

9. Did you prefer it to the prequel, 'Funnily Enough'?

If you have any questions you can add to the list please use the Comments box below.


Saturday 22 September 2012

Friday 14 September 2012

Riding with rhinos ~

Of all the amazing things it is possible to do on this planet, riding with rhino has to be one of the most exciting. Marnie Steffny has just written with news of the recent sightings that Sarah-Jane has been having in Namibia.

“We couldn’t believe our luck.  Out on the rocky plains of Damaraland stood the most endangered of Africa’s Big Five, ears flicking and head raised in typical short-sighted stance.  SJ’s daughter, Zoe, 11, was the first to spot it.  At a safe distance, we sat quietly on our horses, ready to gallop away in an instant.  SJ speaks softly about why this is such an incredible sight.  “Each time we do this ride we find their tracks.  To see a black rhino anywhere is a huge achievement, but to do so on horseback is something that few will ever experience.”  As the sheer enormity of our good fortune sinks in, we’re rather glad that our horses are literally taking things in their stride.
"We gave him a wide berth, as black rhinos are unpredictable and very curious, with notoriously bad eyesight.  If we’d needed to gallop out of danger over such rocky ground, the horses would’ve had difficulty – fortunately we had enough distance between us, and both horses and rhino stood their ground.  Then he caught our scent and crashed towards us like an army tank, covering about forty metres in a matter of seconds before calling off the charge.  This individual is usually relaxed in the presence of game viewing vehicles, but a combination of horses and humans would have been new to him."

"Another highlight of our ride was an encounter with a herd of elephants as they crossed the plains ahead of us, returning from water to browse.  Young bulls, protective cows, and tiny calves in procession had the tips of our horses’ ears almost touching, and when an elephant spun face-on with a volley of head-shaking, the wind changed direction and carried the scent of the herd towards us.  This proved too much for one mount, who sped off in the opposite direction.  At times like this, it’s absolutely clear why these rides are only suitable for very experienced riders!
"Namibia’s Damaraland region is a unique ecosystem, and supports a staggering variety of desert-adapted creatures, both large and small.  We were fortunate to get to the heart of the action on horseback - and delighted that photographer Torleif Svensson was with us to capture these remarkable images.

I rode across the Namib Desert some time ago, drawing up this map of the 400 kilometer ride as well as the Damaraland Trail that goes through black rhino country further north. It was here that I once went tracking with Save the Rhino Trust (see previous posting).  
Reit Safaris simply means Riding Safaris in German. Sarah-Jane Gullick, who I first worked for as a guide in South Africa twenty years ago, now runs the Namibia Horse Safari Company, leading the most exilerating rides across the vast wilderness areas of south-west Africa. Some rate her rides as the toughest and most challenging in the world. As she says,  'there’s little to beat the freedom and thrill of covering distances at a good gallop.'  
To read Marnie's full story please click here

Sophie Neville riding with the calmer white rhino in S.Africa

Sunday 2 September 2012

Drawing Rhinos ~

She was called Tracy. Tracy the white rhino. She was wearing an earring when I first met her, quietly grazing on lucerne in a boma constructed of gum poles. I whipped out a pencil and paper and started to draw her. I was working as a safari guide and took any chance I could to take visitors back to see her, encouraging them to draw too. There was a population of fifteen white rhino already in the game reserve where I lived. In the reserve across the river they had black rhino who thrived in the dense bushvelt. I visited them too, sketching away from the back of an open Toyota Landcruiser. The warden's wife adopted and brought-up an abandoned baby black rhino she called Bwana who we fed with milk from a huge Cola Cola bottle. His saliva made out finger-nails become coarse and ridged.

In the mid 1990s I set up a wildlife serial called 'Dawn to Dusk' for the BBC Natural History Unit. I decided that it would be good to dedicate one episode to the work of Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia.

These are my sketches of some of the 2,500 ancient rock engravings made by Stone-age hunter-gatheres in the Kunene Region of Namibia about 6,000 years ago.

I had time to quickly draw copies of these remarkable bushmen engravings at Twyfelfontein when I was on the BBC recce but didn't manage to do more than take photographs when I was tracking with the game scouts. At one point we were charged by a cow - a rhino cow - called Rita. It was all I could do to hang onto my nerves whilst scrabbling up a tree.

Blythe Loutit, the Director of Save the Rhino Trust kindly invited me back a year later to take part in a rhino census. It was then that I was able to sketch the rare black rhino of Damaraland as well as the elephant roaming the desert. I was also able to use the unique wealth of ID photographs that the scouts had collected and filed.

Some of the rhinos had developed the most amazing shaped horns.

I translated my smaller ink drawings into silhouettes that the Rhino Trust could use for graphics.

This ink and watercolour sketch was drawn from one of Blythe Loutit's photographs. I executed a similar one in a grey platee which was auctioned at Phillips of Bond Street to raise funds for the charity Rhino Rescue.  It isn't brilliant but they entitled it 'Rhino's Bottoms and it brought a bit of laughter to the auction room.

This ink drawing of a white rhino was part of a set made into grettings cards sold in aid of The Born Free Foundation. As you can see they have a confirmation not unlike that of a horse ~ quite different from elephant who have four knees. They operate their pig-like ears independently, as shown here, rotating them like RADAR receivers, listening out for poachers.

If you need graphics of rhinos for any reason - let me know. I have a huge amount of drawings that have never been used.

Here is a shot of me riding past three white rhino who used to graze outside our house ~

All sketches on the blog are featured in 'Ride the Wings of Morning' and are (c) Sophie Neville. Please contact me if you need to use them on

Thursday 16 August 2012

Geese I have drawn ~

I have always loved sketching geese. I drew these when I was exhibiting at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge. I was there talking on otter conservation. With out two otters. I am sure you can understand that not that much was achieved in the way of painting and can only imagine what happened when one of the otters escaped.

My South African friend Rupert Baber - who appears in Ride the Wings of Morning - bought five geese as a security measure. They wandered around the garden honking at strangers. I thought they were lovely. The only problem was that they had to be shut up on the tennis court at night so that they were secure themselves. It actually made them easier to paint.

An acrylic on canvas.

Back in England I drew a goose standing on the ice, executed by using a glass tube ~ thick black ink on smooth cartridge paper.

I made prints and experimented with different backgrounds. Many of the resultant geese were auctioned to raise money for charity.

The end result was an award-winning painting. We used the image for invitations and charity Christmas cards. I framed and exhibited black and white prints in a number of galleries, including the shop at Slimbridge. It proved the goose that laid the golden egg - or golden prints anyway.

All sketches on the blog are featured in 'Ride the Wings of Morning' and are (c) Sophie Neville. Please contact me if you need to use them on