As the year draws to a close, it feels like the perfect time to draw breath and take stock of the fantastic 12 months I’ve had filming and presenting Countryfile. Here are some of the memories that I will particularly treasure:
It’s difficult to pick a favourite – there were so many. But one that stood out was Salcombe in Devon. We were there visiting the crab festival trying crab cracking and crab-pot rolling. Although it was work, it was a like a holiday. As well as snorkelling, I went on a tour of the estuary in a Canadian canoe, taking in shipwrecks and the beautiful scenery. My trip has encouraged me to get a canoe for the family.
Favourite country character
This has to be pumpkin expert Rosemary Moon. I ‘squashed’ up against her in a village church in Sussex as we cooked among the pews. Not only was she an enthusiast for all things cucurbita, but she was a wonderful, cuddly, and full of fun cook. The church was packed with locals wanting to try her recipes for pumpkin pizza and dessert.
Most inspiring story line
I think the most inspiring story this year was that of Mark O’Brien and Liz Vice who had a real passion for wildlife and farming. Mark was very practical and Liz had been a model in London before they became agricultural students.
Their teacher knew how enthusiastic they were so gave them £50,000 of his own money to buy some land. They found the perfect spot, which they put heart and soul into, and they even lived in a caravan to save money. It is a fairy-tale come true for them.
Most dangerous adventure
My most dangerous moment was on the Solent with Olympic yachtsman Ben Ainslie. Our plan was to transfer the whole film crew onto Ben’s yacht, but it was going so fast it was impossible. The only option was for me to jump from our boat onto the yacht. The Solent was really lumpy and we were going at an incredible speed as I took the leap. Ben’s crew grabbed me mid-jump and I made it safely.
Revealing the results of the Countryfile Photographic Competition alongside the blustery Mawddach Estuary was my funniest moment. Ellie had been learning bushcraft skills and had crafted some easels from fallen branches on which to display the winning pictures. These were printed on massive boards but weren’t very wind-friendly, and every time we tried to reveal the winner they flew away. We tried everything, roping them down, sticking them with tape – nothing would hold them.
We had people waiting off camera ready to catch them every time they took off like kites down the valley. We must have done it eight times before we managed to get through the sequence, and just as we said goodbye… bang… they blew off!