Trees A Crowd


Dr Richard Benwell: Carbon footprints and coots’ feet; the Greenman running in Wantage

Season 1, Ep. 22

Dr Richard Benwell is the chief executive of England's largest environmental coalition. He has worked at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and, most recently, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In a passionate and expressive interview, Richard explains how he once tried to engage with an MP by emulating the sound of screeching swifts – not the only time he’s been caught doing bird impressions! Exploring why he became involved in campaigning for the environment, Richard points out that the early adoption of climate legislation overshadowed the urgent need for action on the natural environment. But his work introducing a Nature and Wellbeing Act, agricultural reform and the Environment Bill has been instrumental in bringing the issue to the fore. In a Trees A Crowd first, politics is discussed; specifically how Richard managed to turn the risks of leaving the EU into a success for the natural world, before the discussion floats back towards the “alien, flip-flappy feet” of his favourite bird – the coot.

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Dr Helen Pheby: Sculpture for sheep, and rhubarb trains; the place ‘Extraordinary’ can happen

Season 2, Ep. 7
Dr Helen Pheby is the head of curatorial programmes at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Set in 500 acres of historic parkland, the park has provided a “gallery without walls” for artists such as Elisabeth Frink, Auguste Rodin, Giuseppe Penone, and local legends such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. Helen has collaborated on projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, South Africa, India, and even Barnsley! Born in the so-called ‘rhubarb triangle’, Helen reminisces over “the rhubarb express”, a train which ran from her village in Yorkshire to London, and muses over how magical it was being able to see the contrast between rural and urban environments. In this insightful conversation, Helen explains how she believes creativity and art is a human right, how the YSP was visited by Henry VIII, and how another Henry, Henry Moore, believed it was the job of artists to show people the natural world and subsequently designed artwork for sheep. She explains how the Sculpture Park aims to be inclusive, free from the barriers of social standing, wealth and a gender imbalance that art is often associated with. Subsequently, the YSP is now home to brain-controlled helicopters, women on horseback steeplechasing through the landscapes of the First World War, and all of this second to the migratory routes of the Great Crested Newt. In her own words: “We are places the extraordinary can happen.” For more information on this podcast, including David's thoughts following this interview, head to: