Spring in the step of wild Bill

Bill Oddie
Bill Oddie

The sight of a heron outside his window momentarily halts Bill Oddie in full flow.

“Sorry,” he resumes, “It’s something you don’t normally see in this part of Hampstead.”

You would expect nothing less from the man whose extrovert enthusiasm has known no bounds while evolving from madcap comedian to TV wildlife expert.

He is talking ahead of a guest appearance at the University of Sheffield Students’ Union FLASH! series of talks.

Oddie’s talk on Monday evening marks the launch event for Spring Into Nature Week, highlighting ways to promote the University’s biodiversity, including a garden design competition and events on birds, bees, butterflies, local campaigns and did you know facts.

He became a household name in the 1970s as a member of comedy trio The Goodies, alongside fellow Cambridge graduates Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden and his popularity continued with 15 years on the BBC Springwatch programme which at its peak had five million weekly viewers,

He says he is looking forward to talking to students in Sheffield. “I want to hear what people from that age group are interested in and worried about in the natural world and what they would be prepared to do about it,” he says.

“I am learning all the time myself about things that are causing problems in this world,” he continues. “The issue of rainforests, for example, is not perhaps as clear as people think it is. I have been discovering quite a bit about the issue and it would shock a lot of people as to what the processes are and who’s making the money out of it. they are not as far away from us as we might think.”

He is no longer part of the Springwatch team. “I had to give that up for health reasons of a bipolar nature,” he explains. “I went through a shaky time for a while but I have regained my hold on that.”

Oddie says that giving up his TV commitments has enabled him to become involved in a variety of issues. “In the last couple of weeks I have been in Iceland meeting people concerned about whales, back in London for the Tiger Tracks campaign, and the day after that went to the House of Commons to challenge Owen Paterson about badger culling.” The latter is something of an understatement as he was reported as lambasting the Environment Minister with industrial language.

It is not sufficient just to be “a bit of an animal lover,” he asserts. “The boss of the RSPCA was accused of getting into politics over this. The simple answer to that is there is heavy stuff about the treatment of animals and wildlife. the abuse is a massive crime and it’s a frightening thing.

The more people realise the better it has to be political - political persuasion.”

Tickets for the evening cost £8 (£4 for students) via 0114 2228777.