Three years after Dame Judi Dench began courting wildife park owner David Mills, she has spoken of the dramatic effect that the conservationist has had on her life.
“It’s great to meet someone who shares your sense of humour and interests,” says the Oscar-winner, whose husband, the actor Michael Williams, died in 2001. “I haven’t really talked about him, but it’s jolly nice to have someone to laugh with.”
Mills, 70, who runs the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey, has helped Dame Judi, 78, to cope with the macular degeneration that she suffers.
“He draws and paints beautifully, so that’s lovely,” she tells Woman & Home magazine. “I love to paint, but my eyesight’s not good.
“People do read scripts to me, but I’ve always loved someone to tell me the story of something rather than read it myself.
“It captures the imagination in a way reading the script wouldn’t, like a child being told a story.”
The actress shares Mills’s love of wildlife. “We’ve always had lots of animals at home,” she says. “At one point, during the war, we had 17 cats.
“Everyone was told to get rid of their pets, as there wouldn’t be enough food for them. So they all came to live with us.
“At the moment, we have two guinea pigs, a lot of ducks, three cats, a dog, and my invincible fish, Lazarus. It’s died twice and I’ve brought it back to life by blowing into its mouth. It’s like a shark now, huge.”