During the half term we had the pleasure of going to Hertford Camping and Caravanning Club site for the National Camping and Caravanning week (more of that later). On the program was a nature walk led by David Bellamy. The name didn’t mean much to me, not having grown up in the UK. However, my friend Jennie, who was joining me and the kids with her 2 littlins was beyond excited about the prospect. She was not disappointed by the actual encounter. I thought, even though now having met David Bellamy myself and understanding the awe that surrounds him, I’d leave it to Jennie to tell you about our wonderful nature walk:
I hurried across the campsite field with Little daughter
“Mummy where are we going?”, she asked.
I had little time to think: “We are meeting a very special man. He’s called David Bellamy. He knows all about flowers and trees and all sorts of things. Tell me if you see someone who looks like Father Christmas…”
‘Father Christmas’ was bent double, jumping from one patch of grass and counting “six, seven, eight…look there’s one too and there.”
I thought there must be an invasion of some rare and wonderful creature, but no! Just an exuberant botanist explaining to his enraptured audience about special sugar-producing blades of grass.
The adventure had begun. We were on a wildlife walk with one of my childhood heroes as part of National Camping and Caravanning Show at the Hertford Caravan Club campsite. It was a personable and engaging tour with David and his wife alongside and in every sense a partnership, her gently meandering through undergrowth and passing him findings for comment.
Little daughter stood with a crowd of kids at the front of the group, listening to a selection of mini botany stories about how climate change is producing more vegetation than ever before due to the increase in carbon dioxide (gosh I’d never thought of it that way round before!); about how the oak tree in front of us is incredibly and most unusually in flower; and how grasses don’t go clunk, clunk, clunk when you roll them between your finger and thumb, whereas other stalks do.
Plant whisperer, story teller, encyclopaedia of fascinating facts, he turned common plants and trees into superheros, and unlocked mysteries into cheating nettles not to sting, making aspirin from willow trees and the source of nature’s first velcro. Laughter, shock and amazement rippled through his audience as he covered his big white beard in sticky willies, grasped nettles leaves in his bare hands and ate willow leaves, despite telling us in advance how utterly horrible they taste.
By the time we got to the pond, little daughter was as smitten as I was . So much so that when a frog jumping out at us in the undergrowth caused her to drop the green furry oak leaf given her by David, we had to leave the tour behind to go back and find it, she was so grief-stricken to lose her precious prize.
“I’m just a boy who never grew up”, David confided to me afterwards as we sat enjoying the sunshine at the picnic tables.
I’m so glad he hasn’t ‘grown up’ – he must infuse a love and wonder of nature into every person who is privileged enough to spend time with him.
Was David Bellamy one of your heros too when you were growing up? Has he inspired you to enjoy the great outdoors?