Monday 18 December 2017

Steve Brown: I don't want to be a spokesman for people in wheelchairs when it comes to nature

By Francesca Gosling

The Paralympian will take his love of wildlife to the next level as he joins the prime-time show.

Paralympic athlete Steve Brown says he does not want to become a spokesman for disabled people as he makes his debut as a full-time Countryfile presenter.

A passionate nature enthusiast, he said he had no intention of campaigning for extra access paths to be built across wildlife habitats for people in wheelchairs.

Speaking ahead of his new role on the BBC wildlife show’s Sunday evening programme this weekend, he told the Radio Times: “The whole point is to give wildlife its space and not intrude on it.

“I don’t want to be seen as a spokesman for people in wheelchairs, but good people, with or without a disability, are respectful of the countryside and so wouldn’t want tarmac paths crossing through it because they respect the wildlife enough not to.

“There is enough countryside and enough pairs of binoculars to be able to see an awful long way.”

Steve, 35, was left paralysed from the chest down when he broke his neck falling from a balcony in Germany more than 10 years ago.

Previously a talented footballer and cricketer, he switched to wheelchair rugby and soon qualified for the Team GB squad, captaining the team at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Now, his move to the screen will see him pursue his lifelong love of the natural world.

“I grew up exploring the countryside around where I lived in Kent,” he said.

“If I wasn’t playing football with my mates I was catching tadpoles and slow worms, and I loved programmes like The Really Wild Show and everything with David Attenborough.”

Sunday night’s episode will see Brown join the Countryfile team alongside Matt Baker, Anita Rani, Adam Henson and Tom Heap as he explores the life of hares at a nature reserve outside Preston, Lancashire.

He said: “For me it is worth every flat tyre, every muddy set of hands, every wet lap.

“I want to be judged on my performance. I’m hoping people will see it’s about ability, not disability.”

On his commitment to sharing his devotion to wildlife with his own family, he added: “I can’t take my nephews out to play football or play on the swings and slides, but what I can do is take them out with a bird book and binoculars and hope the memories that I give them are the same as those that my dad gave me.”

Read the full interview in Radio Times, out now.

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