He told me; “I grew up when people were ‘digging for victory’ and even though we only had a tiny backyard, as a 12 year old I remember wanting to contribute. So I grew radishes because they were quick and easy to grow, and they’re tasty. It’s definitely the best way to start. And I remember seeing all the beautiful butterflies. I was hooked.”
These days the broadcaster and campaigner’s garden is quite different. “I have got five acres in the Pennines,” he says proudly, “Mostly in the care of Mother Nature. There are three natural waterfalls and a couple of formal bits and, to be honest, I hate leaving it; it’s so beautiful. When the sun sets the flowers look like little beacons of light as the sky is so clear.”
With 45 books under his “green” belt, he confesses: “Every plant is magical in its own way but I particularly love growing anything with a scent and that provides lots of nectar for the bees and butterflies. A third of all farmers’ crops are pollinated by bees, though the butterflies are important pollinators too, of course.”
Speaking to me from the new Butterfly World project in St Albans, David continues: “Although this area still looks a bit like a building site, the new soils are already forming and the annual plants are slowly but surely taking over. Clive Farrell (the founder) couldn’t have chosen a better time to develop it. There are millions of Painted Ladies migrating from Africa right now and it’s a bit unusual for them to be in such big numbers.”
David is obviously excited at the prospect; “By the time I get home they’ll be up as far as County Durham and I’ve got all their favourite plants waiting for them, like buddleias, common milkweed and lots of marigolds. They’ll be very happy.”
On a more serious note he adds, “We have to get over to the families in this country, and the world, that we live in such a wonderful place and if we don’t look after it then we haven’t got a chance. It’s up to the people to make a difference if they know what to do and how to do it. They should come here (Butterfly World) to find out what to do.”
Butterfly World is near St Albans, Hertfordshire and is open from 9.30am- 6pm every day. For more details visit www.butterflyworldproject.com.