Matt Baker - why I love the British countryside

PUBLISHED: 12:31 01 April 2015 | UPDATED: 12:31 01 April 2015

Matt Baker - (C) BBC - Photographer: Oliver Edwards

Matt Baker - (C) BBC - Photographer: Oliver Edwards

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Matt Baker is one of TV’s best known faces, through his work on Countryfile, but his commitment to the country life continues well after the cameras switch off

We met at the Caravan & Motorhome Show, where Matt gave an impassioned speech (to the converted, I might add) about the glories of the British countryside.

‘Why would you go on holiday anywhere else?’ he asks, genuinely bemused. ‘My whole ethos is about trying to inspire people to explore what we have here. There’s so much to see - we have the finest landscape in the world.’

We have both commented on the sheer size of the Show, held at Manchester’s Event City. It seems like acres of the most incredible motorhomes stretch away from us into the far distance.

‘I love the idea of just being able to climb in and go,’ he says.

It’s just another example of his love of the British countryside, his desire to keep it important to the rest of us, so that it’s treasured and maintained for all the generations to come. His passion is infectious. When he talks about Countryfile, its audience, its reach across the generations, the way it finds its way into every home, you know that he loves every single minute of his work, despite the crazy schedule he keeps to fit it in with his four nights a week on The One Show.

‘Countryfile is the BBC’s number one factual programme,’ he says. ‘Nine million people watch it every week. I think it’s because we tell the story as it is. Where there’s potential controversy (and there’s a lot of that in farming at the moment) we tell both sides and let people make their own minds up. They think “I can learn here”, their receptors are open to learning and they can relax and sit back knowing that it’s suitable for everybody to watch.’

Matt films his scenes for Countryfile on a Friday, which he says is a wonderful way to end a packed week spent in a TV studio. He’s a great story-teller, so filled with genuine pleasure at the opportunities he’s had, the people he’s met and the places he’s visited that you sit with a smile on your face the whole time he’s talking.

Monday to Thursday of course he’s working on The One Show, which he also loves to do.

‘I only do what I’m interested in,’ he says. ‘What makes Britain tick is the people in it. I love how diverse we are and such an eclectic mix. I feel very privileged to do what I do and have access to the people I have.’

His personal connection to the land is maintained through weekends spent at home, in the Chiltern Hills, with his wife and family, dogs, sheep and chickens.

‘There’s always things to be done with the animals of course and we all have our jobs, even the children, and these must be done before anything else. It’s important that they recognise the value of animals and animal care.

‘We’re a very active family – we’re never in! We spend a lot of time walking. We spend any free time visiting family. Mum and Dad still have the sheep farm in Northumberland and my brother-in-law has an arable farm.’

He laughs when I mention the word ‘holiday’, which makes sense I suppose – it’s not easy to up and leave such a collection of animals behind, but he also doesn’t want to.

‘What we have right on our doorstep is so easy to get out and explore and discover. As a family we spend our free time doing just that. I just want to get people to discover the glories of the British countryside, rather than going abroad.’

Countryfile is on BBC1, Sundays at 6.50pm


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