10/08/2012
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Interview with David Bellamy

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Botanist, environmental consultant, campaigner presenter and president of The Camping and Caravanning Club, David Bellamy has done it all – he's even released a single that reached the top 100 in the charts!

We take some time out to talk about what makes the world of camping, caravanning and the outdoors truly special.

How would you recommend caravanning to people interested?

The first thing I’d say is just give it a go – decide on a bit of the countryside that you’ve always wanted to visit and find a campsite to try; there’s bound to be one close by. Once you’ve experienced life in a caravan, you’ll understand why people love it so much!

However, if I had to pick one reason why people should try it, I’d say it’s that wonderful feeling that you’re that bit closer to nature, surrounded by the great British countryside.

Is caravanning better than a package holiday for bringing the family or a couple together?

Of course! When you’re camping and caravanning you’re all in it together: from the moment you make yourself comfortable in your caravan to the moment when you have to say ‘bon voyage’ to the new friends you’ve made.

Everything you can do on a camping and caravanning trip – from barbecues to ball games – can be done together and, because you’re outside it’s all a shared adventure. When my family get together we always talk about the experiences we’ve shared and most of those, particularly the most memorable ones, are linked to the adventures (and mishaps) we had camping.



Do you ever go back to a site, and what are your reasons for returning to outdoor holidays?

My life hasn’t lent itself to returning to the same place twice – I tend to try new things all the time. So, when it comes to camping and caravanning sites, I’m always looking forward to the next one. However, I do always return to the great outdoors for my holidays – even at my age. In fact the last big holiday I took was walking in Spain with my wife. Not bad for someone who’s almost 80!
For me, I return to the outdoors again and again for the sheer joy of being out under the sky, discovering what’s round the next bend and enjoying the world around me: from being amazed by the plants growing in the hedgerows I pass to being blown away by a beautiful view or spectacular sunrise.

Is life on site the best way to live in harmony with nature?

If you choose a park that has made a real commitment to being as green as possible (like the Gold parks in my award scheme) then I do think that camping and caravanning does put you really close to nature.

On the best parks, everything will have been done to create a real haven for wildlife and you’ll be able to see the fruits of that work as you spot a multitude of birds, animals, butterflies and other wonderful creatures sharing the park. You’ll be able to relax and get in tune with the wildlife around and enjoy the sweet music of birdsong, the whisper of breezes and the buzz of bumblebees.

What are your favourite camping memories or experiences?

While I’ve had many happy memories camping with my family in the UK and Europe, particularly in the Lake District and the Italian Dolomites, I have to say that my fondest memory comes from the other side of the world when I was filming in Australia. My wife and I and our (then young) family camped in the desert near Uluru (or Ayers Rock as it was then known) to welcome in 1978. The change of colours on this monolith as the sun came up is something that we will all remember forever.

Do you believe that there’s still any adventure left in going camping and caravanning?

Without a doubt! You only have to talk to my grandchildren about their most recent trip to Scotland, when they had a chance encounter with an adder! For me, however, there’s another unfolding adventure in camping and caravanning and that is the challenge of going green. Over the past 15 or so years I’ve watched as parks across the country have embraced the experience of turning themselves into sustainable businesses and their land into a network of mini nature reserves. This adventure is still being played out in parks across the country and beyond.

Why were you chosen to be president of the CCC?

As that ‘jolly green giant’ fellow from off the telly, I think I made a pretty good fit for everything they stand for – a love of nature, the British countryside and the camaraderie that comes from exploring it all. Whatever the reason, I am glad they asked as I’ve had a lot of fun being part of this great institution.



What are the best things about being president?

It’s definitely the camaraderie and the ‘can do’ attitude. It’s great to be welcomed with smiles and hellos when I go to club sites and to hear all about the adventures people have had in their tents and caravans. I particularly love going down to the annual Feast of Lanterns and meeting all the other Friendly Club members. They always put on a good show!

What improvements have you seen during your time camping?

For me, it’s about getting back to nature, so I can do without all the electrical gadgets and gizmos (and I know that if I took my laptop, I’d only end up doing work). In my lifetime I’d say that the actual gear used has improved immeasurably and that has to be a good thing.

Do you have any tips and tricks for greener caravanning?

My first would be to choose one of the parks that are part of my conservation award scheme. Stay on one of those and you can guarantee that you are giving your support to a park that’s making a real effort to be as green and wildlife-friendly as possible. That’s the ‘big picture’ answer. Next, once you’ve parked the car, leave it parked. Use you feet and bicycles to explore and you’ll really feel as if you experienced a place rather than seen it through a window. On the small scale, my tip would be to get one of those little clothes drying racks you hook onto your window – great for drying socks using only the power of the sun.



Anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Camping and caravanning brings the holiday heritage of the British countryside right to your doorstep (or your doorstep to the countryside). It allows millions of people a year to get closer to nature. With this in mind, I’d just like to finish by asking all Caravan readers to lead the way and do their bit for the countryside.

You might also want to join the Camping and Caravanning Club if you haven’t already – you’ll be guaranteed a very warm welcome!

• See the full interview in the September issue of Caravan magazine.

     
             
     

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