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Listen to Excess Baggage for

15 September 2007


There is a baobab tree in Botswana with six trunks and a girth of about 90 feet.  Its roots stretch out more than 100 yards.  It was first noted by Europeans 150 years ago but could be a thousand years old.  It has hollows in its base which have, in the more recent past, been used as a post box and it provides shelter for innumerable squirrels, lizards and snakes.

Sandi Toksvig meets arborist and historian, Thomas Pakenham who recounts his travels looking for such astonishing specimens in a region where trees need to be tough to survive the climate, the soil… and the elephants.

Terri Davidson
and Shaun Bond are two travellers who have not let the fact that they are wheelchair users confine them to safe choices when it comes to holidays.  Shaun toured Europe by car, staying at camp sites pitching his own tent and exploring places from Amsterdam to Venice; Terri has just returned from Greenland where dog sledding and iceberg hunting were not off limits.

Presented by Sandi Toksvig

Madagascar - Morondava. The Avenue des Baobabs

Photo: Madagascar - Morondava. The Avenue des Baobabs - some trees are as old as 1500 years (UNIESCO).

This week’s guests:

Thomas Pakenham is a historian and an arborist and the author of several award-winning books on the subjects of Victorian and post-Victorian British history and trees.  His latest book In Search of Remarkable Trees – On Safari in Southern Africa is a collection of the largest, oldest and most fabled trees in Southern Africa and Madagascar.  His two previous books on trees are Meetings with Remarkable Trees - about trees in the UK and Ireland - it was followed by Remarkable Trees of the World.

Thomas is the chairman of the Irish Tree Society.  He first got interested in trees at the age of twenty seven when he inherited a family estate and was faced with a looking after a large number of trees.  His attempts to grow, preserve and organise them led to a fascination with trees that has stayed with him.

Thomas travelled many times to Africa and amongst the many trees he got interested in were the baobabs which can be found in Botswana and a huge sycamore on the Kafue plain in northern Zambia.

In Search Of Remarkable Trees: On Safari In Southern Africa
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
ISBN-10: 029784380X
ISBN-13: 978-0297843801

Meetings with Remarkable Trees
Publisher: Weidenfeld Nicolson Illustrated
ISBN-10: 0297843508
ISBN-13: 978-0297843504

The Remarkable Baobab
Publisher: Weidenfeld Nicolson Illustrated
ISBN-10: 0297843737
 ISBN-13: 978-0297843733

Remarkable Trees of the World
Publisher: Weidenfeld Nicolson Illustrated
ISBN-10: 0297843494
ISBN-13: 978-0297843498

The Irish Tree Society is a member of the Tree Council of Ireland

Tree Council

Terri Davidson is an audio visual technician at secondary school in South London and Maggi Fisher is a teacher in North London.  They have been friends for years and have been on many holidays together.  Four years ago Terri was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.  Despite increasing restrictions with her mobility and being dependent on a wheel chair, Terri has carried on travelling with Maggi and with her family.

Maggi saw an ad for Greenland placed by ‘Discover the world’.  Although not a specialist firm dealing with the disabled they were happy to help.  So in February this year Terri and Maggi, and another friend Eric, flew to Kangerlussuaq, a former US air base from the cold war days, lying on the west coast of Greenland.  They went on various activities, like looking for musk oxen, observing the northern lights, an adventurous trip on a dog sled and on another occasion they even tied the wheelchair on to the deck of the small fishing boat to go and look for icebergs.

Shaun Bond worked for a ground handler and a cargo agent at Gatwick Airport. Eight years ago he was told he had cerebellar ataxia. Eventually Shaun had to give up his work. Until recently Shaun used crutches but is now seventy percent wheelchair bound.

Earlier this year he drove round Europe solo in an MG sports car obtained through the Motability scheme which helps disabled people get cars. He stayed in campsites overnight, pitching his own tent. His trip lasted about four weeks travelling from England to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, The Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, the French Alps, Provence-Riviera, The West Mediterranean, through the Massif Central, then on to Paris and back home via Sussex.

Shaun’s next plan is to go to Tibet on a three wheeled BMW motorbike.

The drive of his life - Shaun Bond

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Sandi ToksvigSandi Toksvig:
The daughter of a foreign correspondent, Sandi has been travelling all her life more info
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