Tributes have been paid following the death of David Bellamy, who lived in the region and was world renowned for his work as a presenter and environmental campaigner. Gavin Havery reports.

DAVID BELLAMY was a prolific broadcaster and respected authority on botany and the natural world when, he says, his views on climate change led to him being banished from television.

Flying in the face of prevailing orthodoxy, he dismissed global warming as “poppycock” and said there is “no actual proof” human activity was causing a rise in temperatures.

Bellamy, who died on Wednesday at the age of 86, blamed his views on climate change for the downfall of his TV career and said he became a pariah.

David James Bellamy was born in London in 1933 and was raised in Sutton.

He worked in a factory and as a plumber before meeting his future wife Rosemary.

The couple had five children.

Bellamy studied and later taught botany at Durham University.

A spokesman for university said: “We are saddened to hear the news of David Bellamy’s passing. He is remembered fondly at the university, where he was a lecturer.”

Bellamy achieved wider recognition following his work on the Torrey Canyon oil spill in 1967.

TV work offers followed, launching his small screen career.

Thanks to his distinctive voice and screen presence, Bellamy quickly became a popular presenter on programmes such as Don’t Ask Me.

He also fronted his own shows, including Bellamy On Botany, Bellamy’s Britain, Bellamy’s Europe and Bellamy’s Backyard Safari.

In 1979 he won Bafta’s Richard Dimbleby Award.

Bellamy proved an easy target for TV impersonators and was regularly parodied by impressionists, including Sir Lenny Henry.

He famously inspired Sir Lenny’s “grapple me grapenuts” catchphrase.

At his peak, he was one of the most respected and sought-after experts in his field.

However, his 2004 comments on climate change, dismissed as “poppycock”, may have ended his TV career.

His later years contrasted starkly with another TV naturalist named David.

Sir David Attenborough is passionate and vocal in his belief that climate change is an existential threat to life on Earth.

He enjoys the status of being arguably country’s most beloved national treasure and continues to narrate hugely popular and influential nature programmes.

If Bellamy, who said his climate change beliefs left him a pariah, regretted his comments, he did not admit it.

Asked by The Independent in 2013 if he stood by his “poppycock” missive, he replied: “Absolutely.”

It is possible Bellamy’s TV decline began before his tussle with environmental politics.

In 1997 he stood, unsuccessfully, against the sitting prime minister John Major for the Referendum Party in Huntingdon.

Speaking in 2002, Bellamy said he was “banned from television” after the election, telling The Guardian: “In some ways it was probably the most stupid thing I ever did because I’m sure that if I have been banned from television, that’s why.

“I used to be on Blue Peter and all those things, regularly, and it all, pffffft, stopped.”

Bellamy, who lived in Hamsterley Forest, was instrumental in founding Durham Wildlife Trust fifty years ago and remained active.

Chairman Sarah Lister said: “We are very saddened to hear the news about David Bellamy’s passing and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

“David Bellamy inspired so many people with his passion for nature.

“So many naturalists developed an interest in the subject because of his enthusiasm and he will be sadly missed.

“David was passionate about nature conservation and shared that enthusiasm through his work, inspiring the next generation of naturalists and ensuring that wildlife in his home area of North-East England was protected for the future.

“We will miss his unwavering support and commitment but will continue to do everything we can to conserve wildlife and encourage the next generation to appreciate and respect our flora and fauna.”

Bellamy was the trust’s president for many years and remained a patron until his death.

Director, Jim Cokill, said: “David Bellamy was one of the main reasons why I do the job I do today.

“His TV programmes gave me a love of wildlife and the natural world from a young age and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet him in later life.

“He made a lasting contribution to nature conservation in the North-East, the country as a whole and across the world.”