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To get from Scotland to David Bellamy‘s picture postcard old mill house. deep in the rural heart of what used to be County Durham. you drive down the A68. through the wooded dales of the Borders and over the high moors at (‘arter Bar into Northumberland. lt‘s grand inspirational country. among the best that Britain has to offer and a suitable prelude to meeting the man who has given obscure marsh plants that no-one had ever heard offten years ago the same status in ecological terms as the panda or the rhinosceros.

Natural communicator

lfit hadn’t been for the Torrey Canyon disaster. the first big oil tanker spillage. which made him an overnight success on the box it would soon have been something else. He's a natural communicator there's the demonic enthusiasm for his subject. an impressionists‘ dream. the bashed-in features to give him instant scientific credibility and a genuine gift for instant unscripted but evocative images. Yorkshire TV. who produce his children‘s programme Bellamy 's Bugle. were in action when I arrived. running wild through the house and garden while a hapless electrician was trying to rewire it. the lady what does was baking cakes. the ducks were splashing in the mill pond and two of his four adopted daughters were plying the film crew with coffee and biscuits. In the midst ofthis good natured uproar. Bellamy was sat at the kitchen table in between takes writing a series ofarticles for the national press to coincide with the day the world‘s population officially reaches 1 billion (sometime in July). He's one of the few people who come over even bigger in real life than they do on the small screen and I am happy to report that he practices conservation in the home. The wasp‘s nest which had attached itself to his front door was not going to be disturbed even for a planned film set-up and even though it would put his front door out of action for the rest ofthe summer.

Rather surprisingly for one who has gone to jail for his environmental principles. David Bellamy is viewed with some suspicion by most of the 980 registered conservation groups in the UK. First ofall he makes


sought out the inimitable naturalist in his natural habitat.

money out ofthree bio-tech companies and an ecological consulting agency (he says he doesn‘t make any money himself. he just employs lots of People who would otherwise have no work). and they think there's something not quite on about making money out of the environment. Secondly he has access to the media in a way that most environmental groups would kill for. When his latest TV series Turning the Tide hits the airwaves this Sunday it‘s going to get worse because he argues. among a dazzling array of other things. that soil acidification is not the fault of acid rain.

He wants to get rid ofacid rain as well. you understand. He even traded in his Lotus fora Ford Sierra because it has a lean burn engine (‘goes a lot faster than the Lotus anyway"). It's just that the rain is only part of a much bigger story involving misuse of land. ‘We have to look on the whole environment as a giant chemistry set and balance it up.‘ Without deciduous trees. he argues. any land with high rainfall Scotland. to take a completely random example will turn acid as the nutrients wash out of the soil. unless you do something about it. Hence the seaweed that all good crofters dig into their plots and hence the lime subsidies paid to farmers in certain parts of the country until

Giant chemistry set

recently. Soil surveys that he personally carried out in Shropshire show that before the lime subsidies were introduced the land was definitely becoming acidic. Extra lime halted the process without harming some of the acid loving plants in his beloved bogs.

‘Since the subsidies have been taken off by this government‘ he thunders on ‘the soils have become acid again and all the farmers are saying “We want compensation from the Central Electricity Generating Board." It's absolute codswallop. You see it‘s very easy if you can find someone to knock like the CEGB or the Forestry Commission. So (the other environment groups) don't like it when I tell them it's not their (the CEGB‘s) fault.‘

By contrast. Bellamy will be coming out strongly against nuclear power in this new series. something

he has hung back from hitherto. because he has finally concluded that the nuclear industry quite simply tells lies. As a scientist he is not prepared to put up with lies from fellow scientists. The real difference between him and his critics is that Bellamy is inclined to work with people. even his supposed enemies. rather than against them. ‘lfyou hit your captains ofindustry in the right place so they they see they‘re hurting themselves then they start to change their ways. We have got to stop standing and saying “Don'tl". We have got to be the entrepreneurs. environmental entrepreneurs.‘

The strange thing about Bellamy though is that while he is long on rhetoric he seems surprisingly weak on detail. He can produce doomsday statistics of the ‘every morning there are 250.000 more mouths at the world‘s breakfast table‘ or ‘it takes four zillion gigapods to produce the key on the side ofa corned beef tin’ variety like rabbits out ofa hat. The

Doomsday statistics

trouble is he seems to expect them to answer completely the macro-argument about economic systems. limits to growth and in particular the question of how the developing world can be persuaded that on the one hand all these cars and air-conditioning systems are really an awful bore and you never can get a mechanic when you need one. and on the other what a wonderful life subsistence farming really is. There are straws ofprogress in the wind. "There are bloody great logs in

Photo by Robert Dawson Scott.

h a new book and television series imminent. David Bellamy will making waves again. Robert Dawson Scott

the flood. in fact.‘ says Bellamy. worried that there are too many people trying to get in on the act UK 2000 being a case in point who don‘t know. for example. that clean and tidy isn‘t necessarily nature's way. His vision of the British countryside in twenty years' time is unexpectedly humanist. almost a kind of neo-nostalgia. There will be a lot more woodland. nearly three times as much. but it will be carefully mixed. not more regiments of conifers. More interestingly ‘we‘ll see a lot more people in the countryside managing it properly. I think people will only be working twenty hours a week: the rest of the time they‘ll spend servicing the countryside. Instead of going jogging they‘ll go out to sort out a bit ofcoppice woodland. I think we'll have linkmen back on the roads so that every length of roadside verge will be in somebody"s charge.‘

On a summer‘s day in deepest Weardale. it's an attractive vision. But he'll have to convince his own family first. ()ne daughter. a bright 17 year-old fresh back from finishing school in Switzerland. confessed to being bored rigid living in the country for the age old reason: nothing to do.

Turning the Tide starts on Scottish 'I‘elevision on 5 July. 5pm. A book of 010 Slimc nilmc by David Bellamy and Brendan Quayle is published by (‘ollins at £14.95

The List 26 June 9 July 5