04 April 1986: Today

The Black Leather Avenger Puts On Her Green Wellies

Probably, it is a sign of something - although who could say exactly what - but telly, women and wellies are the thing in 1986.

Selina Scott donned a pair to trek off to the wilds to talk to the natives in her BBC series Scott Free.

Now, Diana Rigg, no less, follows suit as presenter of the documentary series Held in Trust starting on Channel 4 tomorrow night. Miss Rigg is no stranger to action, of course that is the svelte, well-groomed variety like her classic leather-clad role in The Avengers. This, however, is an entirely different beast, ashe as presenter and interviewer.

The first of this eight-part series on the work of the National Trust in Scotland comes from Fair Isle, the most isolated inhabited island in Britain.

Nostalgic Emma Peel fans patient enough to sit through the first seven half hours will be rewarded with her a glimpse of her still glorious, age-defying form squeezed into a wet-suit for some snorkelling off St. Abb's Head in the last episode.

Scottish Television approached the 46-year-old actress to do the series 18 months ago and the call of the wild proved irresistible.

"The idea for the series really struck a chord with me," she says. "I am entirely behind organisations like the National Trust because of the work they do. It seemed to me rather a good idea."

She is not paying mere lip service to a cause. Preserving her own quite large chunk of paradise from the ravages of "progress" in Stirlingshire, Scotland, as wife of Archie Stirling, one of Scotland's wealthiest landowners, as become a private passion.

"We have highland and lowland up here and I'm a great believer in leaving it alone," she says.

"I feel strongly about conservation. Up here, we attempt t keep a balance in the way we use our land. People, roadways, things like that, can be enemies to nature. There's not much you can do about the roads - people have to have access to places. But at the same time, I believe we have to have designated places for animals.

"What I loved about doing this series was the informality. I was myself, which was a first.

"I had no character to playand the filming involved travelling around Scotland with a small crew, which made us very mobile. We worked continuously throughout the day and I saw all those wonderful places." But in her typically straightforward way, she says she has been left with no delusions about where her true talents lie.

Interviewing, she says, requires "a very different skill from acting." In retrospect, she calls it a task best left to specialists.

These days, Diana Rigg calls herself semi-retired. Though still deluged with offers of work, in the last year she has been lured away from her idyllic domestic existence only thrice - as Lady Dedlock in BBC's Bleak House, on stage fleetingly as Cleopatra last summer and and for the filming of Central TV's delightful children's programme The Worst Witch, scheduled for Christmas.

Her stage appearance in T.S. Eliot's The Cocktail Party has been put on ice until January so that Miss Rigg can spend an uninterrupted summer holiday with her daughter.

The job of mum to eight-year-old Rachael has in fact become paramount. Her criterion for taking on work these days is exacting - she will accept only those jobs that neatly dovetail with the school term.

Even for those she refuses to travel too far afield. It is the sort of single-minded devotion that comes from having your first child late and knowing full well that there won't be any more.

"The lynchpin is really my daughter," she admits. "The work I take on has got to fit in with her school holidays. We split our time between Scotland and London.

"Rachael goes to day-school in London and I like to pick her up every day so we can spend the rest of the day together."

She says she is well aware of the consequences of turning her back on her brilliant career. Yes, it bothers her. But not enough to make her rethink her priorities.

"If you're semi-retired like I am, you can't expect to return to the forefront every time you come back. I can't even say I really want to."

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