About my life and work in Transylvania


Paul & FoxyWelcome to my site! I have been blessed with more than 20 years of documenting experiences, lovingly gained from the "land beyond the forest", namely Transylvania. I am British and like to think of myself as a conservationist, documenting subject material from cultural customs to wildlife and environment. I have a special interest in the life and work of traditional Transhumance shepherds, protecting their sheep from wolf and bear depredation, using the loyal support of Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD).

My first introduction to Transylvania occurred in 1993. I am a Registered Nurse by profession and I was invited to join an aid convoy delivering medical equipment to a hospital situated in the town of Kézdivásárhely (Târgu Secuiesc). I only visited for one week, but I immediately knew that this was a place that I wanted to return to and get to know better. A combination of factors brought me to this decision, but the Székely people and their unique, sustainable relationship with the environment was the main attraction. Transylvania is a truly unique place and it is this uniqueness that I will attempt to portray through this site.

After this initial introduction, I returned one month later and stayed for eighteen months. I returned to the same hospital where I worked for several months, before moving to the village of Ozsdola on the invitation of Dr Turóczi Ildikó. She was the senior general practitioner of a small village practice in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. It was during  this time that I met many villagers who kindly invited me on trips to explore local forests. This reinforced my love for the place, but as an unpaid volunteer my financial reality meant that I had to return to the UK to find salaried work. I found it hard to settle back into western life and longed to return to Transylvania. After several years of working  both in the UK and Germany, my opportunity to return to Ozsdola finally came in 2008. However, before relocating I first had to find somewhere to live!

I bought an unfinished building on a large plot of land close to the centre of Ozsdola without a water supply or drains. With just two cement lined rooms and a garage a lot of work was required before I could finally call this my home. Long deep trenches were required to lay pipes, along with a pit for a septic tank. This was all completed by hand by one of the great eccentrics of the village, Eugene Paizs commonly known as the bulldozer!

In 2008 I had plenty of time to develop my passion for wildlife, so I formed a small conservation group called the Transylvanian Wildlife Project. I brought together a small team of enthusiasts which included biologists, photographers and trackers. Our aim was simple, to protect what had taken centuries to evolve. Now that Romania had joined the European Union, the free market was beginning to bear down heavily on this country's vast natural resources. Deforestation started in earnest and hunting was increasing in many areas of Transylvania. Word soon spread about our work, especially our anti-poaching activities and in 2011 I was approached by the National Geographic to assist them with a film project. As a result of this venture, we were nominated for a grant which funded much needed equipment to further our conservation work. In 2013 I left the TWP to concentrate my interest in Human/Predator coexistence, spending much more time with transhumance shepherds, who play a vital role in large predator conservation. 

Bringing in the hay - TransylvaniaSo why is life so different in Transylvania and what is it that attracted me there? Simply put, it is like being transported back in time to a place that feels like a frontier community on the edge of civilisation. Life could not be more different compared to what I was used to in the west, with bears wandering into the village in Autumn in search of food to living with Szekely villagers, ethnic Hungarians who are descendants of the infamous Attila the Hun.

However, these initial impressions can be deceptive as although horse and cart are still part of everyday life in Transylvania, modern tractors and farm machinery can also be seen on neighbouring fields. This strange paradox does not simply end there, as many villagers now have broadband internet but no running water or drains! Romania joined the European Union in 2007 resulting in rapid change. My aim to observe and document the day to day lives of the villagers in my adopted home, the challenges they face, and the subsequent effects on a traditional way of life that has survived for centuries.

Transylvania which has remained isolated by the magnificent Carpathian mountains is now opening its doors to the outside world with a new airport being built close to Brasov and the construction of the Transylvania highway. This new infrastructure will improve everyday life for many, and increase economic prosperity to the region, but there will inevitably be negative impacts too. There are already concerns relating to the dramatic increase in traffic using a road infrastructure struggling to keep pace with demand. Air quality too is bound to suffer in an environment that boasts some of the cleanest air in Europe.