David Bellamy and the Isle of Purbeck

The brilliant large moon (full last night), that we have been seeing on starlit nights this week, has cast a great deal of light from clear skies.  Wandering down to the kitchen in the middle of the night required no artificial lights at all, and both Church Hill at the front, and the garden behind the rectory were wreathed in a pale, ghostly glow, like one imagines a scene out of A Christmas Carol as Scrooge encounters the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.


A little more down to earth, I was speaking on Monday last to some experts on Purbeck stone, as we examined some carvings and ordinary dressed stone blocks in and around St Mary’s Church.  It is fascinating to learn what area of quarry a particular stone is from, and the age and type of the carved stones, of which St Mary’s has several.


It took me back to a book by David Bellamy that has lain open on my desk for the past three days, for in Bellamy’s Britain he has a whole chapter on the Isle of Purbeck, and its rock formations come into this section of the book in some detail, with diagrams and his enthusiastic text.  It was with co-incidental surprise that I switched on my computer this morning, accessed the news and discovered that David Bellamy had died.  In the 1970s I recall being one of many people inspired to spend more time studying the natural world as a result of his enthusiastic encouragement, through TV programmes and written articles.


Bellamy’s Britain was first published in 1974.  Unbelievably, that is 45 years ago, and he speaks in it of the preservation of the heathlands of the Isle of Purbeck being so important, that even then they were threatened, but also that in many of the best areas for heath habitat on the Isle of Purbeck the land was safe in nature reserves.  I guess that we can identify those places he is referring to easily enough.  He ends the chapter with a few words that warm our hearts: “So, the Isle of Purbeck is a very special part of Britain.”  Yes, so it is.


John Mann