We never normally feature the ‘getting to location’ bit on Countryfile, the miles that we cover on foot – mostly with a tripod slung on my shoulder – or the contents of my rucksack, which usually includes spare camera batteries, a wide angle lens or a huge reflector to make the most of the available light at the end of the day. But recently we have broken the trend, and last month featured some off-road driving.
I understand why, for some people, driving a vehicle through a sludgy, bumpy or rocky wild landscape is a daunting task, but for me, the countryside is the car park or the industrial estate that I learnt to reverse park in. I grew up on a farm, so I learnt clutch control in our bottom field as soon as I could touch the pedals.
In South Wales, the morning commute to location was just the wake up I needed. Setting out early from the hotel with my tin foil-wrapped bacon sandwich (I had no time for breakfast, having arrived late the night before from The One Show), I was greeted by our researcher, who was holding out the Land Rover keys and saying: “This place is going to take a bit of getting to. But you’re going to love it.”
We were off to Kenfig Sands, where I picked up Ruth, my co-pilot, who knew the route like a homing pigeon, despite being on work experience. We set off into the swampy dunes while having a discussion about the decline of the area’s plant and invertebrate life with our first contributor, who was now bouncing around in the back like an excited spaniel.
What a journey. We traversed the dunescape, encountering flooded hollows, slippery inclines and pebbled beaches to arrive safely on location. Having filmed the required sequences, the director said: “We’re overrunning.” So we quickly concluded that to free up the flowing sand dunes, returning them to their former parabolic (word of the day) glory, digging up the grassy banks with huge diggers was the only solution. Time, of course, was not on our side and with the extended link into the weather forecast still to do, I suggested we focus the film around the journey back, illustrating the before and after affect of this restoration work.
All agreed, the Land Rover was rigged with mini cameras and it was off into the South Wales sahara. It was great. We were back on track and I had a huge smile on my face. But not for long, as next it was off to tackle some more sand dunes, this time in trainers as I met the local college rugby team to join in with their training. Oh well!