Thursday, 23 January 2020

Remembering David Bellamy


David Bellamy

1933 - 2019

photo by Alan Warren

view from Ngara Mountain
It feels like a long time ago, 1986, and I was the new Warden living in a damp old farmhouse in Low Barns Nature Reserve, Witton-le-Wear, County Durham. Not long back from living in Malawi and slightly out of everything, it was good to make a new friend

Just up the river a bit, lived the Durham Wildlife Trust's Trust’s then President*, who, every so often would pop down for a chat and to see how I was doing. Those informal conversations started a friendship that lasted the rest of David’s life. Sometimes the family would come too, a family of so many shapes, sizes and starting points that to this day I am still not sure that I remember everyone. They were a family that simply absorbed people growing, gathering, thriving.

I think there can be few naturalists of my generation who did not know of David Bellamy and his enthusiasm, that larger than life cheeriness that stomped its way across TV screens and inspired so many of us. To meet him as an individual was lovely: to find the enthusiasm was not at all feigned, that the field botanist lived behind the TV personality and revelled in the moss and the wet. 

David celebrated the accessible wild: he enjoyed the everyday places and the wet, boggy and squelchy. His excitement did not need the most beautiful shot, or rarest species, or most difficult to reach places. It just needed somewhere, anywhere. It just needed to be among growing things

We had a friendship that started there on the banks of the Wear but that lasted until David’s death last year. We didn’t see each other often but kept in touch and that cheery enthusiasm was like an ever present smile on the horizon.

A pair of thwarted dancers, we shared many experiences and many delights (moss, frogs, loud laughter, cheerful people, commitment). We disagreed, too. David’s stance on the human role in climate change lost him many friends, but the friendship endured and I always trusted that he acted from the strongest personal integrity. Being arrested in 1983 during protests over the building of the Franklin River Dam in Tasmania was always a good example and a moment he was proud of. He had paid his own way there and again this mattered. He had not been flown out as some celebrity photo-op but had gone because it a cause that mattered, something that should be done. There was always a readiness to act, to do what felt right, to say what he felt was right even if no-one else agreed.

That is what lasts and what I will remember: cheerfulness, enthusiasm and passion, a joy in the world and a readiness to act…

 Photos: all by myself apart from the picture of David himself by Allan Warren on Wiki Commons

·      Not sure if that was the right title….patron maybe?

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Lost dreams

Roe deer orbit
  Lost Dreams 

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery,

Thursday 9th Jan 2020

I have a bit of thing for bones – more than fossils, ancient bones still remember the lives that once filled them. This piece came out of sitting looking at the bones in Buxton Museum and pondering….
Cave Bear skull, Buxton Museum
This is bone,

Not fossil,

Not stone,

But honest-to-goodness,

Ten thousand year old,


A branch, a bough,

A giant’s club,

A woolly rhinoceros thigh.

There was marrow inside once,

Bony jelly,

A carnivore’s feast,

The pulse of life,

Wrapped in muscle and sinew and skin.

This skull,

The bone bowl of an ancient brain.

These were teeth that bit,

Jaws that gripped,

Eyes that saw,

And ears that heard.

The folded scrolls of these nostrils

Tasted a thousand scents,

Traced a thousand stories.

There is a richness of life beneath my hands,

A legacy of lost dreams.

Growing, waking,

Broad head, strong jaws,

Round ears twitch.

My hand on the hairy hump

Of a bear’s shoulders,

A dark mass heaving into movement.

Forest pools, deep and dark and still,

Eyes opening,

And I sinking,

So deep I cannot feel

Which eyes are mine

And which the bear’s...

Fox:whose bones would inspire you?