My Countryside interview: Ben Fogle

The broadcaster and adventurer discusses diving with Devon’s sharks, his loathing of littering and his love of the deep sea

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Although I was born in London, I spent a great deal of my childhood between West Sussex and Dorset. I have
since spent more than 16 years making shows about the countryside. 

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I do believe there is an urban / rural divide. We live in an urban-biased society. Most of our cities are disconnected with the realities of rural life.

The qualities I most appreciate about the British countryside are the big skies, the fresh air and the diversity
of our landscapes. We live in an extraordinarily beautiful country.

If I could change one thing about the British countryside, I would try to make the country more equal. So much time, money and effort is spent on our cities, as opposed to our rural areas. Our Government needs to focus on the needs of those living in the countryside in terms of infrastructure (improved mobile and broadband internet) as well as supporting rural jobs (farming and agriculture).

To get away from it all, I go anywhere where there is fresh air. We live in London but we leave to visit friends and family whenever we can, in Buckinghamshire, Sussex, Devon, as often as possible.

Children certainly need to get outside more. In my mind there is a looming crisis with our youngsters in Britain, as a result of a massive disconnect between many young people and the countryside.

My ideal outdoor occupation would have something to do with the deep sea. I love the ocean and I think I’d rather like to work on the ocean.

I would define the relationship between farmers and conservationists in the UK as divisive. Each group has their own agenda, which in many cases are conflicting. The two should and need to find a way of working together towards the same goals.

My most treasured piece of outdoor kit has to be a good pair of wellies. They will get you anywhere. 

If I were a British wild animal, I would be a beaver. Once native they are making a comeback. I recently visited a breeding pair in Devon. They are awesome creatures.

There are so many beautiful sights and views in Britain. St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides is so beautiful that it can make you weep. And the best pub in Britain has to be The Puff Inn on St Kilda.

When contemplating the future of the countryside, my first thought is that we cannot afford to lose it, and that we need to ensure government policy includes it. The countryside must not become a foundation for urban sprawl.

My favourite experience in the great outdoors in Britain was off the Devon coast, where I had a magical experience diving with hundreds of blue sharks in the Celtic Sea.

I hate fly-tipping. I’ve seen litter and discarded objects almost everywhere I’ve travelled in Britain. I find it hard to believe people think it’s acceptable to litter the countryside as they do. Perhaps it’s a metaphor to how many people see the countryside?

My rural hero, of course, is Adam Henson.

As for whether it should be cream or jam first on a scone – definitely jam. It’s much easier to put cream on top of jam. Have you ever tried putting jam onto cream? It’s VERY messy.

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Ben Fogle’s latest book Landrover is out now (William Collins, £20)