Ben Fogle: ‘I like the quirky countryside’

Countryfile presenter Ben Fogle tells us why we don’t need to get on a plane to enjoy a great summer…

What would be your favourite destination this summer?

“I still have a real soft spot for the Western Isles, the Outer Hebrides of Scotland which is obviously where I began my career 10 years ago now in Castaway. When I think of all my travels around the world, given that I’ve been to the most beautiful islands – Bali, Tahiti, the Maldives, the Seychelles – I still think the Western Isles are the most beautiful. The light, the landscape, the geography, the people, the weather, it’s such an exciting vibrant place, there’s nowhere like it really.”

Are there any other reasons why you feel happier closer to home right now?

“Now I’m a father to a six-month-old son, Ludo, it means that work in the UK is even nicer as it means I can be with him and sometimes even take him with me. I’ve got these fun plans for father and son to do all sorts together. I really love all the eccentric, quirky things that go on in the countryside like stinging nettle eating championships. I’ve taken part in quite a lot of them but there’s still quite a lot to be done. I love the idea that Ludo and I can head off at some stage and take part, whether that’s together or him watching his dad make a fool of himself!”

Where else would you like to take your son?

“My father’s Canadian and my grandfather hand-built a cottage out there. I have very strong childhood memories of spending my summer swimming and fishing and canoeing and that’s where my passion for the outdoors comes from. I can’t wait to show Ludo how I spent my childhood.”

So your next adventure (cycling The Tour Divide, from Canada to Mexico with James Cracknell) will be the last for a while?

“Yes. I owe it to Ludo to be around for his younger years. That’s one of the reasons for doing this one this year, as he’s still so young. I’m going to miss him more than he’ll miss me. I like to think that one day it’ll be a great thing, he’ll be able to look back at what his dad did in the year he was born and be proud.”

What abut leaving your wife Marina?

“My poor long-suffering wife is a complete star and I always talk to her about things before I go and do them, she’s so understanding. A lot of people ask Marina how on earth she copes with a husband like me, the answer is that I am away a lot but then when I am around, I’m around a lot!”

And where will you be going as a family this year?

“We’ll be in Austria visiting Marina’s family. The dogs (labradors Inca and Magi) come out to Austria as well. We used to take them on trains sometimes, but they’re getting a bit old now so we try to drive to places. It’s a pretty packed car with dog beds and high chairs, and going to Austria is going to be interesting because I need to take two bikes, all of Ludo’s stuff, the two dogs… I think Marina might have to ride on the roof!”

When you manage to combine work with pleasure most of the year around, do you ever feel like really ‘getting away from it all’? Is there such a place?

“My favourite holiday of all is one we used to do with the dogs a lot and we will do with Ludo. It’s where we head to a remote corner of the UK and rent a little house by the sea and cut ourselves off from everything else, mobiles, emails… I can think of nothing as heavenly. That’s what I think about when I’m on my big expeditions – my family (dogs included!) walking along a big beach, whether that’s in Devon, Cornwall or Norfolk or the Western Isles, with a blue sky, paddling in the sea, being a little bit cold, maybe wearing a jumper. I’d choose that over going abroad any day.”

The next episode of Countryfile can be seen on Sunday June 20 at 6pm on BBC One.

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