Trees A Crowd


Sir John Lawton: The wit, wisdom and winged omens of the man who would re-wild Chernobyl

Season 1, Ep. 20

Professor Sir John Lawton is a fellow of the Royal Society, president of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and chair of the Endangered Landscapes Programme. Previously a trustee of the WWF, head of the Natural Environment Research Council and the most recent chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, there are seemingly few environmental organisations that John hasn’t been involved with. That said, it is birds that have driven John’s lifelong obsession with the natural world. Sitting in John’s back garden amidst the sound of birdsong, this conversation flows from a childhood obsession of brilliant blue hedge sparrow eggs tucked away in his nan’s back garden to following in the shoes of Darwin with a (now frowned-upon) fascination for collecting specimens. John explains how he helped to set up nature protection areas across the world, how he visited Chernobyl in the hopes of persuading the Belarus government to turn the exclusion zone into a national park, and what he got up to with a dolphin in Durham with David Bellamy.

More Episodes


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: