Author and naturalist Densey Clyne has died, age 96.

Vale: Densey Clyne in her beautiful gardens at Redbank.
Vale: Densey Clyne in her beautiful gardens at Redbank.

Wauchope resident, long-time friend of Sir David Attenborough, author and naturalist Densey Clyne has died, age 96.

Her environmental work with cinematographer Jim Frazier and lifelong study of insects, plants and the delicate relationship between all living things was ground-breaking.

Her lifetime was dedicated to exploring, understanding and sharing knowledge about the natural world.

Densey has spent the past 18 years of her life developing her beautiful gardens at Redbank which includes a frog pond fashioned from a former swimming pool.

She always wanted a cottage garden, Densey said, to honour her English heritage.

And it was a garden that brought joy to all who visited when she opened the front gates to the public.

"I think gardening is good for your health, mentally and physically, to be close to the soil and close to the natural world," she said in one of her last interviews with the Port News.

Bougainvilleas were among Densey's favourite plants in her garden.

She has been a writer, photographer, speaker, TV presenter and producer and has scripted documentaries and worked with the legendary Sir David Attenborough.

It was back in the 1960s that she first heard the name David Attenborough. As a young man, he was travelling the world collecting wild animals for London Zoo and filming for the BBC.

David was also writing his first books in the Zoo Quest series. Densey had two of these in her library

On the other side of the world, Densey was dealing with wild animals - not quite so exotic and certainly not as dangerous - the insects and spiders in her Australian garden. She was also writing her first books, unaware that 35 years later Sir David would be sitting in her Australian living-room signing his books for her.

To show small subjects in close-up, Densey taught herself macro photography. Over the years, her innovative photographs were becoming well-known, but she lived a private life, gardening, writing, observing nature, never envisaging a career in wildlife.

Densey Clyne, Jim Frazier and Sir David Attenborough. Picture: Jim Frazier.

Densey Clyne, Jim Frazier and Sir David Attenborough. Picture: Jim Frazier.

In 1970, she was surprised by a visit from the well-known naturalist, Vincent Serventy and documentary film-maker, Robert Raymond, who were making a film about Sydney's wildlife.

Familiar with Densey's photographs, they were keen to include similar invertebrates in their movie, and asked if she would consider filming some insect behaviour for them.

Densey had become friends with Jim Frazier, who at the time was the chief preparator at the Australian Museum in Sydney.

Jim was not a photographer. His interest was with snakes and other reptiles and his job was making scientific models for the museum displays.

Densey quickly persuaded Jim to join her on the film project.

She introduced Jim to her garden insects and trusted him to play around with her precious Hasselblad camera.

They bought a second hand 8mm movie camera and after a few glitches it became clear that Jim was in his element. Densey's garden insects became movie stars for the first time.

The pair decided to make a film of their own.

Densey wrote a one-hour script about the spiders in her garden including their remarkably complex sex life and with TV Channel 10 as sponsor, made their first documentary, Aliens Among Us.

The BBC bought the documentary, changing their careers.

Densey and Jim were invited by the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol to form one of 10 teams filming for David Attenborough's major TV series Life on Earth.

Over the next 10 years, as Mantis Wildlife Films, Densey and Jim filmed in Australia and overseas for more BBC productions, including two other David Attenborough epics, The Living Planet and The Trials of Life.

The BBC sent the pair to Borneo, Palm Springs in the USA, West Sumatra, Penang and to various parts of Australia. They also filmed for several ABC and BBC co-productions and made five more films.

"During l those years my 'apprenticeship' with the insects in my garden stood me in good stead for whatever we were filming," Densey said recently.

She was approached by three publishers and her book output increased enormously while Jim was already receiving major awards for cinematography.

Densey Clyne with Sir David Attenborough.

Densey Clyne with Sir David Attenborough.

In England, and on their visits to Australia, Densey got to know the BBC Natural History Unit producers, either as their house-guest or when they visited her in Sydney.

Sir David was producing more and more of his magic to bring the world of nature to our living rooms. And although it was his genius that inspired the BBC filming for Densey and Jim, it wasn't until Sir David's 1990 trip to Australia with BBC producer Mike Gunston that Densey met him for the first time.

Sir David and Mike both stayed at Densey's home in Dural, exploring her garden and graciously signing her collection of books.

Densey arranged a small dinner party in his honour, inviting Dr Mary White, eminent palaeo-botanist whose major books on Australian archaeology were already known to David. Dr White also spent many of her later years living on the Mid North Coast.

Densey always said her meetings with Sir David "remain important and happy memories" and throughtout her life, remained devoted and inspired by his "wonders of the wild" work.

For Densey, Sir David is one of the outstanding adventurers, educators and conservationists of our time.

For everyone who knew Densey, or had the privilege of enjoying her beautiful garden, may the magic of the natural world live on and inspire generations to come.

Densey Clyne has passed away, aged 96.

Densey Clyne has passed away, aged 96.