After years spent ripping up the countryside in a succession of 4x4s, Jeremy Clarkson has revealed an unexpected fondness for the great outdoors.
At the launch of the annual Countryfile wildlife photography competition, the man known for being an enviro-sceptic petrolhead surprised fans by saying: “I enjoy being in the countryside. People don’t associate that with me, but it is possible to like more than one thing at once.”
What’s more, Clarkson also voiced a heretofore undeclared admiration for the good, honest graft of farming.
“I love the idea of being a farmer, that’s why I like watching Adam’s Farm [on Countryfile]. But farming land is complex. It’s a business, but it’s important to me that the land looks beautiful too,” he told producers of the BBC show.
Clarkson got the opportunity to demonstrate his passion for nature when he invited outspoken Countryfile presenter Chris Packham to farmland he owns in the Cotswolds, in the hope of finding some photo opportunities to inspire viewers.
And despite having picked a rather grey day for the shoot, Clarkson – who once spoke about “giving Mother Nature a bloody nose” – was full of enthusiasm for all things lush and organic.
Gesturing across his land, he said: “Look at that! Which would you rather have? All this or money in the bank?
“I was born in the countryside so it’s only natural I would want to enjoy it now in my autumn years. All right, early winter then!”
However, his attempts to capture photos of yellowhammers and tree sparrows were scuppered by the birds remaining obstinately out of camera range. And even a picturesque lake owned by the gaffe-prone controversialist failed to yield any sighting of rare wildlife during Countryfile’s visit.
Yet Clarkson remained hopeful about the potential of his farmland as a future haven for animals. He said: “I want get more butterflies here. I want to get many, many more birds. I want to do a helluva lot to make [the land] look nice and to make wild life come [here].”
His tune has changed somewhat since 2009, when he told TopGear.com readers of some very different plans for his land.
He wrote: “I have bought a farm. There are many sensible reasons for this. Land is a better investment than any bank can offer. The government doesn’t get any of my money when I die. And the price of the food that I grow can only go up. But there is another, much more important reason: I can now have a quad bike.”
If you’d like to enter the Countryfile photography competition, non-professionals can send up to four entries to:
Countryfile Photographic Competition
Birmingham B1 1RF
Full details of the competition are available on the Countryfile website. The episode of Countryfile featuring Jeremy Clarkson will be broadcast on Sunday 20 May.