Steve Backshall © Steve Davis
DWT’s Communications Officer Sally Welbourn met up with one of TV’s best known wildlife presenters and naturalists, Steve Backshall whilst he was filming at Lulworth Cove and Upton Heath in Dorset.
What’s been your favourite wildlife experience in Dorset?
Dorset is one of the absolute hot spots for wildlife in the UK. I’ve had the great privilege of going out on a reptile ramble with Steve Davis from Dorset Wildlife Trust, and we saw every species of British reptile, including male sand lizards in all their glory! That is something really special. I still get a kick out of seeing adders even now, and I grew up on the Surrey heaths.
What’s your favourite place in Dorset?
I love it down here – you get beautiful orchids, fabulous reptiles, the walking is great, and you have that beautiful sweep of coast and the rocky cliff faces. I also go climbing on rock faces such as cormorant ledge and dancing ledge. I like nothing better than sitting there and watching a sun set or sun rise, and just feeling that there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be.
You’ve written books for children – how important is it to enthuse young people about wildlife?
Educating people has been a big part of my career and since I got started I think that a fear of the outdoors, which is incredibly common, can hold people back and make experiences outdoors less pleasurable and fun. I think we should do everything we can to beat those fears and phobias, and this starts young. If I go into a classroom with a big hairy tarantula in front of a group of 4 year olds, all of those children at the end of the session have taken that spider in their hands. There are certain phobias which are without doubt ingrained in our brains but if we can ease them out and replace them with a realistic respect for wildlife, we will make life better for kids. Showing kids that being involved with the outdoors, nature and wildlife is cool and exciting is my big mission!
Did you share your passion with your Strictly Come Dancing partners!?
Strictly Come Dancing was completely different to anything I’ve ever done, but it was terrific fun! One of the best things about Strictly is that I’ve been able to share some of my great loves in life with celebrities I may never have had any contact with. I’ve had Pixie Lott come along to one of my science lectures and I’ve taken Jake Wood out in the river with his kids, looking at dragonflies and damselflies! They’ve done the same for me – I’ve seen Pixie sing, and been down to the set of Eastenders with Jake – it’s been a really nice exchange of things we love.