TV VET Steve Leonard had bad news for fans of his popular series Vets in Practice and Ultimate Killers when he joined North-East youngsters on a mini-beast safari yesterday.

After five years of sharing a screen with every wild and tame creature imaginable, he is cutting back on his filming work to concentrate on his first love - treating sick animals.

Steve met up with children from Witton-le-Wear Primary School at Low Barns nature reserve, when he picked up an £8,500 Barclays Bank cheque for the Durham Wildlife Trust.

Last night, he was in Durham to give the trust's Tom Dunn Memorial Lecture called Too Close For Comfort based on his travels for Ultimate Killers and Vets in the Wild.

One of the original students whose careers were tracked in the original 1996 series Vet School, Steve, now 29, is passionate about his profession.

He said: "I am not quitting the filming work altogether, but I am cutting back to go into practice with some friends.

"That is what has driven me since I was five years old and I can't wait to get into it."

Steve was presented with the cheque by Alison Blench, from Barclays.

The grant will be spent on equipment such as pond dipping nets, microscopes, binoculars, sweep nets and identification charts for the 8,000 schoolchildren who visit the trust's nature reserves every year.

Trust chief executive Richard Wood said: "Working with children is an enormously important role for the trust. We sow the seeds of interest in the natural world in youngsters with the aim of securing a greater understanding and sympathy for the environment in the longer term."