Birder Bill launches Essex festival

By Ted JeoryFORMER Goodie and renowned bird-watcher Bill Oddie got his directions right this time when he launched this year's Essex Festival of the Countryside.

By Ted Jeory

FORMER Goodie and renowned bird-watcher Bill Oddie got his directions right this time when he launched this year's Essex Festival of the Countryside.

At a windswept Abberton Reservoir Wildfowl and Visitor Centre yesterday, the comedian and host of the BBC's Bill Oddie Goes Wild series said he had been coming to Essex to watch birds for decades.

He said: "I was a delinquent egg collector as a kid – something I don't recommend now obviously - and that led me into my love of bird watching. When I got a car, the first place I came to explore was Essex.


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"I live in north London now and if I ever want to go and see the real coastline, I just head up the A12 and, if I'm lucky I'll manage to find Abberton Reservoir.

"There are no particularly unusual or wild birds in Essex, but when I'm here I'll spend hours watching them.

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"But if you want to draw me into any Essex bird jokes, don't," he warned.

In its tenth year, the festival will bring together more than 250 rural events during the spring and summer in Essex, ranging from village fetes and wildlife walks to teddy bears' picnics and seal watching cruises.

Launching the festival, Mr Oddie said: "I was walking around Hampstead Heath in north London this morning in a snow storm, so thank-you to the willow warbler that greeted me on my arrival here today for reminding me it's spring.

"I opened this visitor centre in 1990 and looking at the events planned for the tourist season, I think it will be great."

County councillor Colin Finn, deputy to the cabinet member for planning, enterprise and regeneration, acknowledged Mr Oddie's difficulty in finding the visitor centre and promised better sign posting.

He said: "This beautiful county boasts some of the most stunning countryside you'll see and this festival will provide the ideal opportunity to make the most of the English summer.

"There are events for everyone to enjoy from the Easter weekend through till the end of September."

For a complete listing of events taking place during the festival, call 0845 6007373.

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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