Actress Alison Steadman is standing up for London’s wildlife as our latest ambassador

Wednesday 9th November 2016

Alison Steadman at Woodberry Wetlands by Clearwater PhotographyAlison Steadman at Woodberry Wetlands by Clearwater Photography

You’ve probably seen her playing Pam Shipman in hit comedy Gavin and Stacey, Mrs Bennet in the BBC’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, or in films including Shirley Valentine and Clockwise. But Alison Steadman is also a wildlife enthusiast and nature TV presenter, and her enthusiasm for all things wild makes her an excellent choice as an ambassador for London Wildlife Trust.

I adore hedgehogs, they are amazing creatures. When I saw one for the first time I was 19 and I have never forgotten it...

Although she grew up on Merseyside, Alison has lived in Highgate for several years and says she walks through London’s many green spaces looking for nature whenever she can. “One of my favourite places is Queen’s Wood,” she says. “I used to live near there and I’m still a friend of the wood to support it. It is a lovely area. The Friends of Queen’s Wood host activities as well as doing things like litter picking. I went with them looking for fungi, I found it fascinating.”

The former Olivier Award winner says her love of nature started at a young age. “I grew up in Liverpool, we had a small garden and my dad was a keen gardener. He grew rhubarb and I remember looking under the leaves and finding caterpillars – I didn’t know the names of them but I loved them. I don’t really see caterpillars in the garden anymore and I find that quite worrying.”

“I think it is really important to encourage people to look in the garden and turn over a stone or a leaf and see what’s there. With the internet now you can look stuff up immediately so you know what you’ve found. Once you get children interested in nature it stays with them for the rest of their life.”

After finding fame with the 1970s TV plays Nuts in May, and Abigail’s Party, Alison began presenting nature programmes in the 1980s. “I did a show for children. One week it was about ants and there was a boy of 11 and he just talked about how they lived, and how they were better organised than us! I loved doing that programme, my agent didn’t think I’d want it but I ended up having an absolute ball.”

In recent years her enthusiasm for wildlife has seen her travel around the Shetlands for an ITV documentary. “We had a great guide called Brydon Thomason, he took me to see otters and that was so exciting. It was just fabulous. We also saw some puffins as well, they are the most wonderful creatures, I love the fact that they mate for life! It was fascinating to learn about how their bright beaks are used for courtship.”

Alison Steadman helped publicise our Garden for a Living London campaignBut what’s her favourite species back home in London? “I adore hedgehogs, they are amazing creatures. When I saw one for the first time I was 19 and I have never forgotten it. Since then I have kept looking for them but the only other one I’ve seen was dead. I always encourage people to think about what they put in the rubbish, such as the sort of netting you get around fruit, which can injure them.”

The work of the Trust that Alison deems most important is getting children enthused about nature. “When my son was five-yearsold he brought a friend home for tea and there was a huge bumblebee at the window. This other boy said he wanted to kill it with a newspaper. I said ‘no’ and he looked at me like I was mad. It was what he had been taught to do by his dad – children need to be taught that every creature is important and is not just something to be stamped on.”

Alison is also keen to ensure as much of London remains natural as possible. “It’s really important we keep our garden species. These big housing developments can be really unfriendly to nature and we need to do more to keep our green spaces.”  

More information

Alison Steadman is London Wildlife Trust's second ambassador for wildlife, supporting our work to protect wildlife and nature in London alongside David Lindo, the Urban Birder.

Banner image of Alison Steadman at Woodberry Wetlands by Clearwater Photography