She has been amusing audiences for almost 50 years with her witty, consoling rhymes on life’s experiences, from not looking after her teeth to the agony of hosting dinner parties, weight gain and ageing.

While Pam Ayres’ aim during her career has largely been to make people laugh and bring some light relief amid life’s trials and tribulations, the ‘people’s poet’ says that the world her grandchildren will grow up in is a “terrifying prospect”, given climate change, diminishing wildlife numbers and political instability.

“It’s a terrifying prospect for them. The populations are shifting, the planet is becoming so inhospitable to so many people. There’s Putin and there’s Kim Jong Un and just so much unrest and hostility. I fear for my grandchildren. The only thing that consoles me is that probably our grandparents felt the same about us.”

It’s a downbeat comment from the writer, broadcaster and national treasure who is better known for her uplifting, humorous verse. Oh, I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth is among her most famous – delivered in that delicious rural burr.

“I think it’s realistic,” she says. “You’ve only got to look around and see what’s happened in Ukraine, in North Korea, the people coming across in boats, all the trouble there is. But I do try to write humorous stuff and if I’ve got a role it is to try and write things that will give people a laugh.”

Great British Life: Pam Ayres.Pam Ayres. (Image: Trevor Leighton/PA)

Her acute observations conveyed in clever, witty verse have been used on many special occasions. One called ‘Yes, I’ll Marry You My Dear’ is often used at weddings, ‘Woodland Burial’ (about wanting to be buried in a wood) is read frequently at humanist and woodland burials.

She’s making an appearance at Glastonbury Festival this year – for the second time. “I’m down with the kids, down and dirty,” she chuckles. “I’m in the cabaret tent, which is more modest than the main stages.”

The woman who made her name by winning the talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1975 is still touring at 77 (her next tour is in the autumn), and is collaborating on a stage musical about countryside disquiet called Who Are You Calling Vermin? and has no intentions of retiring.

“I won’t retire, not unless I have to. I’ve always written from the time I was a child at school. I don’t envisage a time when I would stop enjoying it. So I’ll go on as long as I can and as long as I feel I’m doing a good job.”

“I don’t feel 77,” she continues brightly. “I don’t feel like an old woman at all, but I am. I find it quite amusing that I’m 77 because I don’t feel any different from the way I did in my 20s.”

She dotes on her five grandchildren, aged between four and 11, and dedicates her latest picture book I Am Hattie The Hare to them. It’s the second in her series of four books that introduces young readers to the themes of wildlife and conservation, a subject close to her heart.

Great British Life: I Am Hattie The Hare by Pam AyresI Am Hattie The Hare by Pam Ayres (Image: Two Hoots/PA)

“I’m very interested in wildlife and I’m depressed by the way it has disappeared during my lifetime,” she laments. “Lots of things have gone extinct. The wildlife that I grew up alongside, the great clouds of swifts and swallows that used to come in the summer, the sound of the cuckoo in spring, the river and brook would be full of watervoles and there would be frogs, thrushes, hedgehogs, and they have gone largely. Yeah, you see them but they are a rarity. That’s what I find so infinitely sad.”

The book gently introduces the species to the readers, but also touches on the impact of mankind on the environment and how life is changing for our hares. Her grandchildren have already taken the first two books to school, and have given positive feedback.

“I’ve encouraged the children to be interested in our wildlife and want to look after it,” she says proudly. Most of her life savings have been spent on a 22-acre wildlife reserve in the Cotswolds where she lives, which is where she walks every day.

Her husband, theatre producer Dudley Russell, to whom she has been married for 43 years, has been a constant support throughout her life and career. What’s the secret of their happy marriage?

“Being friends and having a laugh. He always makes me laugh. He’s got a very dry sense of humour and he’s a great friend. He helps me and we look after each other.”

As for fame, she says she’s not approached when she’s out and about “unless I open my mouth”.

Great British Life: Pam Ayres.Pam Ayres. (Image: Alamy/PA)

Ayres doesn’t do much TV now, although last year she presented a TV series on the Cotswolds for Channel 5, but says she’s picky. She recently appeared on Would I Lie To You? but wouldn’t consider reality TV such as the jungle.

“I don’t fancy maggots poured all over me, or cockroaches, or anything like that. I’ve been asked to do Strictly but I look like a Shire horse so I don’t want to do that. You have to know what’s appropriate. I don’t want to look a fool. I only want to take part in a programme if I can make a real contribution to it.”

She and Dudley see a lot of their two sons and grandchildren, who live nearby.

“Grandchildren have made a huge difference to my life. They open up whole new worlds for you,” she says, enthusing about going to watch her football-mad grandson’s matches and becoming interested in gymnastics through her granddaughter.

She tries not to worry about getting older because she’s having such a good time, she observes.

“I don’t want to leave all the people I love. The idea that I’m 77 and I’ve had a lot more time than I’m going to get is heartbreaking, because I’m very lucky, I’ve got a marvellous family around me.

“I was very fortunate in that I produced two sons with a little assistance from my husband when I was 35 and 37. I left it very late, but they’re such a joy and they give you a stake in the future. The idea that it’s going to go dark and you’re not going to be there is heartbreaking.”

She looks after herself, she says, walking every day.

“We used to have a personal trainer and do the planks and the really hard stuff, but I don’t want to do that now, in my late 70s. I walk every day with my little dog.”

I Am Hattie The Hare by Pam Ayres, illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne, is published by Two Hoots, priced £12.99. Available now