Ahead of a new BBC documentary, Attenborough and the Sea Dragon, the broadcaster reveals his five favourite spots for wildlife lovers on UK shores.
1. Cley Marshes, Norfolk
This is one of the great places in Britain to see wildlife. The Norfolk Wildlife Trust was the first in this country, founded in 1926 – the year I was born. Twelve friends produced the money to protect this coast, at a time when natural history was regarded as something slightly odd.
Today these trusts are a national movement, and it’s heartening to know that there’s not a square yard of this country that doesn’t have a trust caring for it to some degree.
As the world warms, there will be extreme things happening to this coast, and we need people who understand it and will look after it – not just for ourselves, but for the wonderful creatures that live on it.
2. Richmond Park, London
I’ve lived in the same house for more than 50 years, close to Richmond Park, and my children were brought up there. We used to go out walking every Sunday and although I don’t get the chance to go out quite so often, I’m very happy where I am.
The wildlife is wonderful – deer, butterflies, dragonflies, birds, falcons, kingfishers – lots of fabulous stuff. We get stag beetles that come into my garden from Richmond Park and they feed on rotting wood. They’re fabulous, dramatic insects.
It’s a National Nature Reserve now; I think it’s the only one, certainly in London.
If you travel west from England into Wales, you will find things like trilobites and graptolites, which are unlike anything alive today at all.
They are so early – 300 million years old – and they are extraordinary things that look like huge, scaly woodlice.
When you go on holiday in Wales and suddenly start to find trilobite fossils of the sort you’ve never seen before, it’s thrilling.
The first fossils I knew were in Leicestershire when I was a boy; I was collecting fossils from the age of six or seven onwards.
Jurassic rocks are found in a band that stretches in a north-easterly direction right across England and ends up in Yorkshire, and I grew up in Leicestershire, which is in the middle of the Jurassic.
The seas were shallower than they are in Lyme Regis, so I got a lot of shellfish and ammonites. But I would have given my right arm to find an ichthyosaur as a boy.
All the fossils I collected are now in Leicester University. When they instituted the first department of geology they wanted common stuff to give to students, so I gave my lot to them.
5. The Lake District
I was a rock climber in my youth – my foolish youth – and I used to go to the Lake District. I was obsessive and I used to climb Scafell and so on. Once I fell and I was absolutely sure I was going to die.
I thought how ungrateful I was, and what my parents would think. They spent all this time looking after me, and that was what their reward was. I was a rock climber in my youth – my foolish youth – and I used to go to the Lake District. I was obsessive and I used to climb Scafell and so on. Once I fell and I was absolutely sure I was going to die.
After I got married, I stopped climbing. But the Lake District is a fabulous, beautiful place.