LEGENDARY actor, explorer and keen conservationist Brian Blessed proclaimed Chester Zoo as "the finest in the world" in front of a captive sell-out audience at Storyhouse.

The talk at the city cultural hub on Wednesday, February 6, was the first stop in the 82-year-old's 'An Evening With Brian Blessed' 15-stop UK tour.

As well as regaling the audience with tales from the acting profession, including his well-known roles as Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon and Long John Silver in Return to Treasure Island, Brian also gave a surprisingly moving and passionate defence of the planet's environment.

Telling audience members "we are winning" the battle against endangered species being threatened with extinction, he highlighted Chester Zoo's ongoing conservation work.

He said the zoo was "the finest in the world" and pointed out its conservation efforts for bats and elephants in particular.

Brian, who earlier in the talk mentioned he has 3,000 animals at his home and was nearly late for Wednesday's talk as he had to shoo a Shetland pony out of his kitchen, added he would be going to join the protest against Japan's planned resumption of commercial whaling later in the year.

Other topics covered in the talk included performing Shakespeare, space exploration and climbing Everest, and speaking with such people as Sir Kenneth Branagh, the Dalai Lama, Her Majesty the Queen and Professor Stephen Hawking.

Brian, who received a standing ovation at the end of the talk, will return to Cheshire when he performs at Crewe's Lyceum Theatre on March 7. For details, visit crewelyceum.co.uk.