In fact, Dr Julian Bayliss was just a short walk away, isolating himself in a camper van at the bottom of the garden amid the coronavirus pandemic. Fearing it would break her heart if daughter Poppy, four, knew she was only 330 yards away from his arms, Julian told the white lie. As they stayed in contact via Skype video calls, Julian occasionally watched Poppy using a drone.
Leading ecologist and renowned butterfly expert Julian, 50, self-isolated after coming into contact with a man who had Covid-19 while in Ethiopia.
Aware the virus was spreading across the globe, he took the first available flight to the UK and headed back home.
But Julian wanted to be close to Poppy and his partner Malaika Sacranie.
So he borrowed a camper van from a friend, created a fire pit and dug a toilet trench in the field bordering his home near Wrexham, North Wales.
He said: “It really hasn’t been easy.To know I’m that close to my family and not be able to see them has been extremely hard.
“I had everything I needed except my family – a fire pit, a toilet set-up and a picture of Poppy next to my bed.”
Explaining the heart-wrenching decision not to tell Poppy that her dad was coming home from Africa, Julian said: “I didn’t think she would understand.
“She would want to come to me and I would want to go to her and we could not do that. It would become more upsetting and a lot more stressful.” But as their isolation finally ended last night, Poppy ran into her father’s arms for the biggest of hugs.
Julian said: “It was worth every single cold night in that camper to see the look on her face. It’s very good to be home.”
The scientist is best known for discovering a previously unknown rainforest in Mozambique in 2017.
He led a 28-strong team including scientists, logistics experts, rock climbers, and film-makers to the top of Mount Lico.