Why do you think Countryfile is so successful?
It’s a window into country life for urban people. It lets us stop and relax while really getting in to what makes people tick. We also look at the real issues that face the countryside.
The fact that people don’t work where they live. Where I grew up, on a farm in Durham, you worked on the farm. I should have been a farmer like my father but that’s not what happens now. We all live in the countryside as a lifestyle choice, not because we work there. Villages are empty and I think that’s sad. But I do think there will be a resurgence in agriculture in this country so that might change.
Are you a rural or an urban person?
When I got the Blue Peter job, my girlfriend Nicola and I (she is now my wife) had to move down to London. I asked the estate agent to find me something near trees. He showed me a flat in Chiswick with one tree outside the front door! We lasted six months until we moved out to the Chilterns! The urban me just doesn’t exist.
What’s the greatest threat to the countryside?
I think there’s an enormous number of wind turbines. They are right next to the farm in Durham and they’re 90m high. I’m not sure how effective they are as they never seem to be actually working!
How do you manage a home life with your One Show and Countryfile commitments?
I don’t go to anything I’m invited to! I’m invited to lots of parties and dinners and the like and I just don’t do any of it. During the week, I get up and get my children (Luke, five, and Molly, three) breakfast and take them to school. Monday to Thursday I go to The One Show. Then, on a Thursday night, I set off to film for Countryfile. The deal is, I have to be wherever we are filming by dawn on Friday morning. Sometimes I jump on the back of a motorbike and off we go. The important thing is I get to spend weekends at home.
Do you miss Meg, your old Blue Peter dog?
She developed a growth on her back leg and had to be put down. It was a terrible shock. We miss her massively because we’d been through so much together. But now we’ve got Annie, who’s a black Labrador. She’s softer and less excitable and a great dog for the kids to hang out with. She’s so patient.
This is an edited version of an article from the issue of Radio Times magazine that went on sale 21 February 2012.