Sir David Attenborough awarded Freedom of Richmond Borough

Richmond and Twickenham Times: Honour: Sir David Attenborough with the council's chief executive Gillian Norton, left, and Mayor Meena Bond Honour: Sir David Attenborough with the council's chief executive Gillian Norton, left, and Mayor Meena Bond

Sir David Attenborough said his favourite parts of Richmond were Richmond Park and Kew Gardens when he was made an honorary freeman of the borough.

The honour was conferred on the renowned naturalist at a special meeting at Richmond Council on Thursday, March 27, after he said Richmond was his favourite place on the planet.

The 87-year-old said: “It is indeed true that the question I am almost invariably asked by journalists or members of the public, apart from what is my favourite animal, which is obviously one of the key questions, is where is your favourite place on Earth.

“I am quite sure they expect me to say the Galapagos or maybe the great plains of east Africa with elephant and giraffe, or the mysterious jungles of Borneo or the oriental charms and mysteries of Bali, something of that sort.

“I give a true, true answer and it is the one word which you have all already heard several times – Richmond.

“That’s not an affectation. This is the place for me.”

Sir David has lived in the borough for 62 years and said he has never owned a second home.

He is patron of Richmond’s Environment Trust and gives an annual lecture in May on his chosen topic.

He said: “When I come back home after a trip and I look out of the aeroplane you spot the Thames and you see park coming up and you trace the geography and I can see my house.

“The thing that strikes me every time, which you don’t see on the ground because all the roads are lined by houses, are the green spaces in which we lucky people happen to live right in the middle of.

“Kew, Wimbledon, Richmond, Bushy Park – it is unbelievable how green it is and in the middle of it all is that shining serpent of the Thames. “It is a countryside in the town, and you do look after it.

“That is why to receive this honour from this council is an honour indeed, because you have a marvellous record of awareness and concern about looking after the countryside of our town and that is not a contradiction in terms.”

The broadcaster, who lives near Richmond Hill, praised the Thames Landscape Strategy, which aims to deliver a cleaner, safer, more accessible and ecologically richer riverside.

Its focus is the corridor between Hampton and Kew and it is a 100-year strategy to conserve, enhance and promote the river.

Sir David said: “The Thames Landscape Strategy is a remarkable strategy, which has engaged the sympathies of councils on both sides of the River Thames.

“People getting together concerned about the welfare of the river, concerned about the welfare of the park, concerned about the natural world and its conservation that we might live in sympathy with it.

“It is just a marvellous place to live – not only because of those geographical beauties, but that the people who live in it should care for those geographical beauties in the way you do.

“To be given the freedom of this remarkable spot on the Earth is an honour indeed and I thank you, Madame Mayor, and you all very much indeed for such an honour.”

Freedom of the Borough is a rare honour and the highest one a council can give.

Sir David was presented with the honour at a public meeting in the council chamber in York House, Twickenham, before a sit-down meal for invited guests.

Richmond mayor, Councillor Meena Bond, presented Sir David with the honour alongside council chief executive Gillian Norton.

Coun Bond said: “I have interests in taking photographs of birds and snakes and flowers on a small scale, so I am very excited to have a world renowned nature history programme-maker in our midst.”

Council leader Lord True, said: “I believe that Sir David is so well known and loved for all the things that he has done and accomplished and indeed taught over so many years.

“The most remarkable thing to me is his gift to appeal to and unite people of all walks of life and all generations.

“It is a glorious achievement; you have been a wonderful ambassador of the natural world.

“But you moved us all when you said simply when asked what place in the world, of which you have seen every corner I think, meant the most to you and you expressed in the simple one word Richmond and we all feel that too.

“We love this borough with the same strength that I think you do.

“You carry the values that I think we do – generosity of spirit, respect of others and respect for the world.”

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