Did you actually Escape to the Country yourself?
Yes, I live there – I recently moved from the edge of a small village in the beautiful Cambrian mountains of Wales where I bought a cottage 15 years ago. It was virtually derelict with earth floors, three light bulbs and one outside tap and it was a long labour of love to restore it and create a garden from a wilderness. The first birch trees I planted are now 30 feet high! We now live in Herefordshire, on the Welsh borders, in a beautiful 16th century former farmhouse. While it doesn’t need as much work as the cottage, there still lots to do to create our dream home.
Who do you share it with?
My partner Tania (known to most people as T) and I divide our time between Herefordshire and London, along with our black Labrador Iolo.
Are you ever tempted by houses on the show?
Of course! There are some amazing properties on the show. I mean, what’s not to like about visiting fantastic houses? It really is a dream job. We see some very inventive designs and styles, which means I’m always learning, and getting inspiration for our own home. I also get to see some wonderful historic properties which is where my interest really lies.
What’s the best bit about Escape to the Country?
I love helping couples work through their ideas and expectations. I think the show is often quite cathartic for them in that it helps them to nail down exactly what they want and don’t want. It’s not about holiday homes, it’s all about finding them somewhere to live their lives. Hearing the news that someone has moved in is a real treat.
What’s your advice to anyone thinking about moving to the country?
I think you really have to get a feel for the area over a period of time. It’s quite likely that you’ll be buying an old house which will come with its own charms but also its very own quirks. If you are intending to restore a house, you’re probably going to need plenty of specialist advice, but also a fair amount of imagination. Don’t forget the weather! It will play a big part in your life so you need to be organized and not phased by seasons. In some parts of the country, they be more extreme than you might expect if you are used to city life.
Are you recognized in the street?
Yes. People are incredibly friendly and say really lovely things about the shows. It’s often a great way to find out what people like and don’t like, and we can feed that back into each production team. People are sometimes surprised that I am just like I appear on the TV, but that’s just me – and I take that as a huge compliment if people feel you are approachable. It’s also often a lot of fun. I was buying some lawnmower parts recently and a lovely lady told me I looked terribly like Jules Hudson. Not only that, she informed me that he lived nearby. The guys I knew behind the counter tried to contain themselves but in the end she twigged. Needless to say she was a great sport!
How did you get into TV?
I was working at Durham University after finishing my Masters in Field Archeology, and was testing some equipment out on Palace Green. At the time, the area had been taken over by a crew filming Jude The Obscure. To my astonishment, overnight they had transformed the surroundings into an 18th century scene. I became captivated with the idea that a film company had the resources to create history and bring it alive. I’d been set on a career in archaeology but this hit me like a thunderbolt. So I began knocking on doors begging for jobs as a TV runner. My first job was on a Dinosaur series called Paleoworld for The Learning Channel. I was taken on for a month and stayed for two years. It all went from there.
If I hadn’t worked in TV?
I’d would probably have remained in archaeology, still living in the country, or I might have trained further in working with wood and restoring things. I’d have been very happy with that but realise and appreciate how lucky I am to do a job that is so varied and so rewarding. One of the real perks of what I do is working alongside a huge range of very talented and equally committed people determined to produce the best work that we can.
Favourite TV ?
Anything involving history; documentaries, classic war films, anything where I learn something. Oh and Top Gear for a bit of fun!
You mentioned Top Gear? What do you drive?
I’ve only ever driven one type of car since I was 17 and that’s a Land Rover. It’s hard to imagine wanting to drive anything else, and of course they are still designed and built in Britain. Wherever you see one around the world, it’s nice to think where it came from. I’ve even driven to the Sahara and back in one of them. I just love their versatility. My love affair with Land Rovers was cemented recently when Land Rover Owner magazine came to my home to do a feature about my love of them.
Favourite Recent Film?
The King’s Speech. T took me to see it a couple of days after its release. It’s just beautifully crafted, and just goes to show that you don’t need to break Hollywood budgets to produce a winner. It was obvious that it was going to be a huge success. As an historian, I also love films with a strong factual basis.
I’m going to have to cheat here. Paris , Rome, Barcelona, Edinburgh, York, parts of London, Bath, Bristol and Norwich. That’s quite a long list but they are all favourites.
Sailing in the British Virgin Islands with the phone switched off. I like to have lots to see and do on holiday, but I like to do it at my own pace. I love Greece, Italy and France for their history and culture, as well as exploring the UK. We have so much to offer, I doubt whether any of us could ever claim to have seen it all.
Gardening is perhaps the really big and constant one, and as well as sailing, I love blokarts, and photography. My workshop is a real haven – I just love making and restoring things. We also have Iolo (our Labrador) of course– and he’s the perfect excuse to keep getting outdoors!