There were only two things that you had to be quiet for in our house; that was Final Score and Countryfile. My family are dairy farmers, my granddad was involved in breeding heavy horses and my whole family have a farming background, so basically it was what you did on a Sunday: Watch Countryfile!
THE GREEN GRASS OF HOME
We live in the South of France now as my husband plays rugby and was sold to a club out here. For us it’s amazing, for our wider family it’s hard. I think if anything, it makes me appreciate Britain so much more. I fly backwards and forwards most weeks and as soon as you come into descent, the one thing that smacks you is just how green it is. Out here, particularly where we are, it’s wine growing region so you drive around and it’s all vineyards. This time of year for me should be about rows of silage and long grass, whereas here it’s all rows and rows of little trees full of grapes.
I LOVE COWS
We have really amazing wildlife in the UK but I love cows! It’s easy to take for granted something that is really fundamental to our countryside. I went to film this dairy cow and she was this huge girl who had given birth loads of times and I was sat cross legged on the floor. The cameraman was panicking “Oh no! This is where we see Helen get trampled” and the cow just licked my hand and walked off. That for me was one of those real breathtaking moments. Cows are not just things that produce milk and cheese, they’re tactile, fascinating animals.
THE LAVER HARVEST
We filmed a young guy (Jonathan Williams of the Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company ) who is on this one man crusade to get people eating seaweed again. I went out with him for the day, picked a load of seaweed, took it back to his van and cooked it. I didn’t realise how many types there were! He had a young scientist down there who’s doing research into whether you could you grow it commercially and have a seaweed farm, because it’s a natural resource, so you don’t want to pick too much.
We went back and made seaweed pasta, with crab and prawns. It was like a seafood risotto. It wasn’t pasta with a bit of seaweed, the seaweed was the pasta. I was more interested in the kelp and the laver that he dries down to make condiments. I had it for lunch on a fried egg butty. It adds a good flavour and made a boring sandwich really interesting. Then I helped out in the van but knocked over the laver bread that he’d so lovingly made, and spilt it all so I don’t think I’ll be welcomed back!
In all seriousness, I was really inspired. This was a guy who thought “what do I really love in life?” He loves food, he loves the coast and he loves the beach and he’s managed to make that his workplace. It was such good weather and such a glorious day, I was stood on the beach and I actually thought, I hope I don’t ever have to get a proper job.
Our next day was filming a new kind of eco-home to address the lack of rural housing and jobs in rural areas. The houses are very simple and very basic which means they’re cheap to run and cheap to build, and they’re using young, local lads to do it. I totally get it. I’m from a rural area and young people leave because there’s nowhere to work and nowhere to live. These guys have found a way to address that with affordable houses that are affordable to run.
Helen films for the Show. Image: BBC Countryfile
MY FAVOURITE SPOT
I tell all my friends to go to Pooley Bridge, just outside Penrith. There’s a little path along the edge of the lake where we always went as kids for picnics and barbeques. The bridge got washed away so they have a temporary bridge in now. It’s kind of cool; the old bridge was stone and blocked the view, but the new bridge is railings so you can see the fells through it.
If I’m at home, I take my kayak or swim as they are my favourite things to do in Ullswater. I like to be in the water or on the water, but at the minute I’m really loving stand up paddle-boarding (SUP) so I’m doing that a lot.
Images: BBC Countryfile/James Harrison