Clifton College, Bellamy and the Blake Shield

Usually a blogger gives a heads up, as to any personally significant events they may be entering or attending, but not me I’m afraid. Sometimes with the rushing about, and juggling that seems to touch the life of almost any large urban dweller, I find as usual, that the event has happened before I have had time to write about it!


David Bellamy

Image via Wikipedia

This is one such example. On Saturday the 26th of November 2011, I had the privilege to be invited as a guest sponsor (representing my publisher Conch Press) to a lunch and awards ceremony for the 25th year of The Blake Shield; supported by the British Naturalists’ Association in two of  the beautiful buildings of Clifton College, Bristol.

I confess I did know a great deal about the college before my visit, let alone that it’s a boarding school for both girls and boys, but I could not help but be impressed by the rather august collection of buildings. It felt to me like a little bit of Cambridge had been delicately placed on an outer fringe of Bristol. My role primarily was to sign copies of my illustrated book, which were being given away as part of the prizes in the awards ceremony, in recognition of schools (and often individuals) who have made a contribution with research into our impact on our local environments. Studies ranged from Damage to old trees, Bees, Mill meadows and butterfly conservation. Age ranges were from primary school to 15 years old. It was good fun, and the children seemed to be excited about their awards… all happening under the watchful eye of the diligent Pamela E White, who was at the helm as master or ceremonies.

Within the throng and the clamor, was the evergreen Professor David Bellamy. I have watched him on TV for years, with himself and another famous evergreen Sir David Attenborough being a great inspiration to me whilst growing up. Primarily it was down to these two for my sustained interest in the environment, and it seems these days that there is scarcely a far flung rocky outpost that has not been graced by Sir Attenborough’s presence?

I was introduced to Professor Bellamy over a rather robust lunch, under the vaulted ceilings of the dining hall, which was a curious combination of Hogwarts and school dinners. The shine, clunk and clang, hot trays revealing, peas, carrots or braised chicken all combined to make for a comforting nostalgia. It’s funny how, that even in adulthood seeing the bustling dinner ladies, the Rhubarb crumble and custard can make a me feel 8 years old again, things that I didn’t know I remembered?

David looked of course just like he does on TV, alert and friendly he has the comfort, wisdom and ease that you would expect of a man well traveled (he will soon visit Borneo one of many places again) and grandfather to 10 grandchildren. We spoke a little about the rate that trees were being gobbled up by industry, and he mentioned rather sadly, that whilst traveling to Borneo every other year, that each time he sees more forest felled and more palm trees for the cultivation of palm oil.

On a lighter note a very entertaining anecdote was being told by Roger Tobor (Chairman of the BNA) about his explorations in ‘Cat Cam’. I remember seeing something on the news about it earlier this year, but for the uninitiated, Cat Cam is a video recorder that is attached to a cat’s collar, which is also synced up with Google maps to give a precise location of a roving feline.

The story involved a female cat (for names sake let’s call her Clarissa) who by day, spent her time looking demure and sweet on a windowsill, or draped elegantly over a sofa, whom by sunset would leave the comforts of home to answer the call of the night and engage in antisocial behavoir. It turns out that Clarissa is a tough girl who likes a bit of rough? Not only does she patrol a vast territory (significantly larger than average females, and larger than most males) she defends it with gusto, violently beating up any cat foolish enough to cross her path, which can be several per night (including males) and is apparently a superb fighter, which could suggest why the territory is so vast in the first place. She insists on being fed at the several different houses she frequents as she patrols within her territory, and dare they leave her unsatisfied will also casually engage in raiding the bins. By sunrise she has returned (looking immaculate) to a pampered life and surroundings, with her owners blissfully unaware (until now) of Clarissa’s double life. I digress a little… but it’s great material for stories.

To sum up, I had a great day, especially taking a photo of myself and Professor Bellamy at Bristol Zoo (looking at the big cats I did not know a male Lions roar had so much bass, quite incredible). It’s great to see that a legend like David is still going, and morphing it seems into Botany’s answer to Father Christmas. Let’s hope that he can still continue to give his presents of insight and suggestions long into the future?


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