Stephen Tompkinson admits he was surprised but delighted ITV gave Wild at Heart a fifth series after dramatic TV cut-backs.

Speaking to People.co.uk, Stephen said: “Viewers were more loyal than ever for series four, but more popular shows than ours were being cancelled.

“You wondered if there was any money left so we were absolutely delighted when it went ahead.”

Despite the green light, cast and crew were subject to stringent budget cuts.

Stephen said: “We had to film an episode in 10 days instead of 11 for money reasons. Everyone worked hard because we thought if this is the last series, we’ll make it the best.”

Stephen was accompanied in South Africa by his new girlfiend Elaine, who quit her job at the Foreign Office to be with him on set for the duration of the five-month shoot, which saw Stephen working 14-hour days, six days a week.

Speaking of Elaine, Stephen said: “She doesn’t get bored there – in fact, she always complains there isn’t time to do everything.

“She seems so happy and it’s absolutely glorious for me. It’s nice to have someone you love with you. It makes you not worry about things and just enjoy what you’re doing.”