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Bill of rights

Author Bill Bryson's forthright views will be very much in evidence in his new role as head of CPRE.

Acclaimed author and new president of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) Bill Bryson has an axe to grind. 'Electricity pylons are a blot on the landscape, ' he fumes.

'Do pylons always have to be on ridgeways, on the highest ground?

Why aren't more power cables put underground: 18% of cables in Denmark are underground, but only 6% in the UK.' Bryson's reputation as a communicator, and his enthusiasm for the British countryside will stand him in good stead during his ve-year presidency of CPRE.

Bryson grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, in the US, and came to this country in his early 20s on a backpacking trip. He worked as a journalist before turning his hand to travel writing.

He says his presidency fulls a desire to change the world he inhabits. 'I've never been involved in mounting a campaign about anything. I've spent years sounding off and ponticating, but I've never tried to do anything. It's not straightforward taking practical steps. That's one of the great things about being enfolded in the warm embrace of CPRE. They are equipped to press government; they have experience of taking a stand.' Bryson wants CPRE to lead a campaign to stamp out litter and the 'scourge' of fly tipping. 'I want Defra to take a stand, to provide increased education, to exercise greater vigilance, to mete out public punishments.

'And I want to mobilise the voluntary sector, to get people out in small groups to clean up a road or a park - to do something for their immediate environment, and by doing that to do something to improve society.'

CPRE drew attention last year to light pollution. Much of the night sky is blotted out by the glare of Britain's street lights. 'People have to be challenged - they must start asking, 'is this what we really want?', ' Bryson says.

'There are times when we have to have roads, power stations or other great big intrusions on the landscape, but in so far as you can do it respectfully of the landscape and unintrusively then you should.'

Q&A Bill Bryson

I like: Iconic structures. Entering London through Whitechapel, on either side of you there are exotic Asian markets and elegant, albeit tumble-down Georgian buildings, and bang ahead is the Gherkin. It's really exciting.

I dislike: Electricity pylons, and power stations are a smack in the face, though I quite like the cooling towers.

I'd like to: Slow our endless craving to consume, possess, use up.

We've got ourselves into a ridiculous position where our appetites have become insatiable.

I'm worried by: All this glorious weather.

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