Viewers of Countryfile were wowed last night as a 97-year-old botanist appeared on the show.
Dr Margaret Bradshaw, 97, from Eggleston, was on the BBC1 programme last night where she explained how she has spent the last 60 years defending the flora of Upper Teesdale.
She revealed how she had started investigating rare flowers in the area in the 1950s, before establishing the Teesdale Special Flora Trust in 2017 which she continues to fundraise for.
The 97-year-old explained she had recently taken part in a fundraising challenge to ride 88km on horseback across the area.
Many viewers confessed they were wowed by the programme, with one saying: ‘If I am lucky enough to live as long as Dr Margaret Bradshaw, I hope I’m still in touch with nature as she is and still able to ride a horse like her.’
Viewers of Countryfile were wowed last night as Dr Margaret Bradshaw, 97, from Eggleston, appeared on the show
Another wrote: ‘This old lady on Countryfile is just amazing. Go Margaret.’
A third added: ‘Great piece on Countryfile just now with the extraordinary Margaret.’
A fourth commented: ‘Margaret! What a legend!’
One wrote: ‘Dr Margaret Bradshaw, a living legend!’ while another commented: ‘All power to you Margaret. At 97!’
‘What a marvellous lady Margaret is,’ one added.
During the programme, it was explained that Margaret has become so important to the area that a species of tree named after her, though it’s so rare that no pictures of it exist.
Margaret explained: ‘I’m from a farming background, I’ve got farming in my blood.’
It was while she was at university, studying to be a teacher, that she first heard of the area.
Many viewers confessed they were blown away by Margaret on the programme, calling her ‘amazing’
She said: ‘It stuck in my mind, I’ve no idea why. The first day, I gathered some plants from a meadow and sent them out to get checked.
‘That was the beginning of the 1950s – and from then on, I got engrossed. Then I went to Durham University to do my pHd.’
When she was teaching at Durham, her previous Teesdale area came under threat. A dam was proposed, which would result in the flooding of the area.
She said: ‘We raised the alarm about it but then suddenly all these botanists appeared, loudly saying, “Oh no you can’t flood this area.”‘
Sadly, these efforts weren’t enough to stop the plans – and it became a race against time for Margaret to survey the flowers which would be submerged.
She found 10 per cent of the unparalleled area would be lost forever.
Six years after the dam was completed, she married and moved to Devon – before moving back to the north in 2001.
As well as head botanist, Margaret is also chief fundraiser for the Trust, recently trekking 88 kilometers by pony to raise more than £5,000
She was shocked by what she found, saying: ‘I realised what a big decrease there’d been. It was a lot more spongey, more like a mattress.’
In 2017, she set up the Teesdale Special Flora Trust to assess the plots she had looked at before – and found the flowers were all decreasing.
She said: ‘We had a big influx of rabbits at the beginning of this century, so some areas were really almost bare.’
After being asked if it ‘mattered’ that the flowers were disappearing, she said: ‘Well, does it matter that we have Durham cathedral?
‘Does it matter that we have Stongehenge?’
‘What would happen if Durham cathedral was falling down, bit by bit? They’d want to build it up again because it’s part of our heritage.
The 97-year-old explained how she has spent the last 60 years defending the flora of Upper Teesdale (pictured)
‘This is part of our heritage. Much older than Stone Henge. It’s 10,000 or 12,000 years old.’
As well as head botanist, Margaret is also chief fundraiser for the Trust, recently trekking 88 kilometers by pony to raise more than £5,000.
Margaret said: ‘It’s been a long time, I’ve worked hard on the flora all in the interest of conservation. And in particular, for me, conservation of this very special flora.
‘And in spite of all of that, the quantity of the special flora has all decreased.’
‘It’s strange, but this year, there seem to be so many events around me that made me think, well maybe I have achieved something.
‘There’s so much to do, I didn’t get many well dones when I was young.’