A TOP South African conservationist is coming to Dorset to visit Lawrence of Arabia's cottage.

Dr Ian Player is flying to England on March 8 to celebrate his 80th birthday at a party in London before travelling to Clouds Hill, Lawrence's Dorset home.

He will be staying with his friend Louise Aspinall at her farmhouse in Evershot, near Dorchester.

Ms Aspinall said: "He's the most famous conservationist in South Africa.

"He saved the white rhino from extinction and has taken 30,0000 to 40,000 people out on his trail.

"He started the Wilderness Foundation in South Africa and the World Wilderness Congress which has convened in eight different countries."

She added: "Ian is an extraordinary man, and has always talked on his trail about Lawrence's book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

"T E Lawrence is one of the writers he most admires because of the way he writes about Arabs and the wilderness."

On Dr Player's last trip to Dorset he visited T E Lawrence's grave but missed the house because it was closed, so this time the National Trust is holding a private opening of the house for the conservationist.

Dr Player founded the Wilderness Foundation in 1974, a charity which aims to protect and sustain African wilderness and wild lands through integrated conservation, experiential education and social programmes to benefit of all communities and wildlife.

South African born and educated, Dr Player rose through the ranks in the Natal Parks Board Reservations, to oversee all Zululand Reserves.

He led the team that saved the white rhino from extinction in the 1960s with umZulu game ranger Magqubu Ntombela.

He has received many awards including the Order of the Golden Ark and the Gold Medal for Conservation Dr Player is also a founder of the World Wilderness Congress, a long-running, public international environmental forum.

Clouds Hill will reopen to the public for the summer season on Saturday, March 17 from 12-5pm.