Alan Titchmarsh: ‘I mingled with the Queen’

Alan Titchmarsh goes behind the scenes at the Great Windsor Horse Show for a new ITV1 documentary. He reveals what it’s like to spend time among the horsey set…

What’s so great about the Great Windsor Horse Show?

“It’s the biggest horse show in the country. It happens every year in May in the grounds below Windsor Castle. We did a bit of a fly on the wall. It’s spectacular – there’s showjumping, dressage, a tattoo every evening. The carriage driving is enormously spectacular, it’s far more exciting to watch than Formula One. There’s water splashes and everything… incredible skill.”

Did you mingle with Her Majesty?

“Yes, it’s in her back garden, so it’s terribly ad hoc, you know. She walks round with a headscarf on looking at the stalls, chatting. I think the stallholders are quite surprised it’s so low-key. I loved the way everyone mingles. There’s people from all walks of life who compete, from the Royal Family to farmworkers and they all meet on the same level. One carriage driving woman from up in Derby when she’s not competing she uses some of her horses to pull a funeral hearse!”

Who else was attending the show?

“I met the Duke of Edinburgh several times, he’s very forthcoming and on good form. He told me about trying to get horses to cross water with sugar lumps as bribes. He’s every bit as keen on horses as the Queen is. He only stopped competitive carriage driving four years ago. I also talked to some very colourful people, including the Queen’s stud groom, Terry Pendry, who rides out with her in Windsor Great Park.”

Do you ride?

“When I was 38 I said I wanted to do two things before I was 40 – play the piano and ride. I’m not brilliant, but I enjoy hacking out. I got to ride one of the Household Cavalry horses. That was an experience. They can tell the difference between a novice and someone who knows what they’re doing! Especially as I had no spurs.”

What are you up to next?

“My chat show comes back in September and I’m busy working on another volume of memoirs called Knave of Spades which comes out in October. It’s about the years from my leaving school to becoming a gardener and what happened next.”

If a film was made of your life who would you like to play you?

“Ooh I don’t know. I’d love Ewan McGregor but I’d probably get Rowan Atkinson. I don’t mind who it is as long as he can master a Yorkshire accent without making it sound Welsh.”

*All the Queens Horses will be shown on ITV1 on Sunday, 19 July*