GARDENING guru Peter Burks* who advises the online garden centre www.potterandrest.co.uk based in Somerset is offering a whole host of tips for selling your home this summer (2017) by ensuring your outdoor area looks its best.
Gardens, patios and green spaces are now even more important than ever when it comes to selling property.
Peter says: “Having an outdoor area is an asset and making it look as inviting and appealing as possible will help potential buyers envisage relaxing, entertaining and gardening in the space too.
“Dress your outdoor space as you would dress your home inside. This will help any potential buyer to visualise how they would use the garden. Think about who is likely to buy your home and whether they will want to see a low maintenance entertaining zone, a family garden with space for a climbing frame or a plantsperson’s haven. Sometimes you might need to achieve a combination of these looks. Borrow props from friends and family to get the vibe you’re after.
“Some garden stores and centres will hire out plants for weddings and parties. So, if you have lots of viewing on one weekend, why not hire some potted greenery to give added interest, but be sure you know how to look after them, so you don’t incur additional costs.
“Just as you might have the smell of fresh coffee inside, ensure enticing aromas abound outside too by selecting scent-makers, one for each season, near your front door. You could also consider tactile planting schemes and installing items that will attract the buyer you’re particularly after, like garden lighting.
“If you have a large garden in a rural or suburban setting, then you might want to woo a buyer keen for the good life and pop some moveable raised veg beds in to show them there is space to grow their own.
“Small gardens and patio areas always benefit from having a minimal look to maximise the space, but a chair, with cushion, and table are always appealing, however small, and a few easy to tend pots look great too. If the weather is good, be sure to have a glass of something lovely on the table and an open book too!”
Follow Peter’s other handy hints below:
Keep things tidy
Whatever the season your garden or patio, front and back, must be kept as tidy as possible. In the autumn and winter, leaves and debris can cause problems. Do a daily inspection and sweep up anything you find.
All year round it’s really important to ensure flower beds are well weeded, use bark to help suppress the weeds and keep beds tidy, lawns must be mowed regularly and hedges trimmed. Front gardens are part of your property’s kerb appeal so pay extra special attention to them, especially if your home is prone to having litter from the street blowing in.
Remember to pop your rubbish bins somewhere unobtrusive so that they don’t ruin the ambience.
Ensure boundary fencing is tidy and kept in good repair too.
Cutting lawns in the summer months and tidying flowerbeds will also help make your garden look larger.
Dress your outdoor space
In the summer months, it’s easier to dress your garden for a sale by using props such as hanging baskets, pots of plants, furniture and equipment like barbecues. These not only introduce colour and charm they also help potential buyers envisage how they might use the space.
Keep everything in good order
If you have a shed make sure it is neat and tidy, with doors and locks working and woodwork painted/treated. With a greenhouse, even if you don’t use it, you do need to be sure there is no broken glass and it looks safe. If it is very derelict, then it may be better to remove it completely and use the base as a feature area for pots of plants. Oil any squeaky gates and again ensure with gates and fences that the woodwork has been treated or painted.
Get rid of the clutter
Clear out any outhouses, garages, sheds and greenhouses. Remove the debris and the clutter and be prepared to make several trips to the recycling centre/tip. Keep things in storage boxes and remove the dust and cobwebs.
Children’s and animals’ toys
These can be a bit of an eye sore so make sure there is space somewhere to store then away when potential buyers are coming to look around.
Give your garden a clean
Everything looks better when it has been cleaned. There are lots of specialist cleaning materials and tools available to get patios, decking and furniture all sparkly. If you have pets pick up any mess.
If you are an owner of a listed property or are thinking of buying one, you might have a number of questions but are unsure who to ask or where to turn for advice. For over 20 years The Listed Property Owners’ Club (LPOC) team has been advising listed home owners and potential buyers. LPOC brings together expert knowledge and experience with all aspects of buying, conserving, renovating and insuring a listed home. Here, the club’s experts answer some of the most frequently asked questions from their members.
WHAT IS A CONSERVATION OFFICER AND ARE THEY IMPORTANT?
Conservation Officers are generally employees of the local council and their role is to ensure the character of the building remains intact. They will be one of your most important points of contact as the officer will grant – or deny – listed building consent. They may even dictate the materials and techniques that you should use to make these changes.
WHAT IS LISTED BUILDING CONSENT?
If you want to alter or extend a listed building in a way that affects its character or appearance as a building of special architectural or historic interest, or even demolish it, you must first apply for listed building consent from your local planning authority. Contrary to popular belief, listing protects the complete building both inside and out (not just the front) and may also include garden walls, courtyards and even statuary within the garden. Some buildings are also “curtilage listed” meaning that if your property is situated within the curtilage of, or attached to a listed building, it may also be listed. Make sure you know what is protected under the listing within your home and any grounds.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR UNAUTHORISED WORK?
If a previous owner made alterations to the building without listed building consent, the local planning authority may require you to reverse those alterations at your own cost. It doesn’t matter who carried out the work, or how long ago, it will become the new owner’s responsibility. It is important to make sure you are adequately insured and that suitable searches are carried out in order to make sure that all alterations have the correct consent.
WHAT IF I WANT TO EXTEND OR ALTER MY LISTED BUILDING?
If you are planning to extend or alter a listed building it is vital that you involve your Conservation Officer at the earliest stage possible. If you are planning alterations to a listed property, be realistic as to what will be allowed. For instance, listed building consent is unlikely to be granted to add a large modern garage to a small cottage. By working sympathetically with the property, your plans are much more likely to be approved.
IS DOUBLE GLAZING ACCEPTABLE IN A LISTED PROPERTY?
It is unusual to be able to introduce double glazing into the narrow glazing bars of period windows and for this reason double glazing is difficult. However, there would be no restriction on using secondary glazing and this is the method normally recommended. The use of very slim double-glazing units set within the original glazing bars may be acceptable although some Conservation Officers reject them due to the unsightly reflection. Listed building consent will be required if, for example, the windows are to be replaced with a new style of window or you wish to repaint existing windows a different colour to the existing.
HOW DOES MY INSURANCE DIFFER FROM A NON-LISTED PROPERTY?
The insurance of a listed building is very different to a modern building. Should disaster strike, the cost of repairing using traditional methods and materials will be greater than a “normal” house and your conservation officer will seek to ensure you reinstate “like for like”.
DO I NEED TO USE SPECIALIST SUPPLIERS AND TRADITIONAL METHODS?
As old buildings, listed properties often don’t respond well to the application of modern materials. For instance, many cases of damp are actually the result of the introduction of modern, non-breathable materials such as cement or paint which prevent the escape of moisture. In most cases, owners can get the best results for their property by using original traditional methods.
NEED HELP AND SUPPORT FROM THE LISTED PROPERTY OWNERS’ CLUB?
Join today and reap the benefits of LPOC membership right away. The Listed Property Owners’ Club is Britain’s only advice service dedicated to helping members get the most from their homes by providing detailed advice, information and support for just about every conceivable issue associated with ownership. Members benefit from a dedicated telephone helpline where you can speak to a team of experts on conservation, VAT, law, insurance and listed building matters. For more information about joining or to get a copy of ‘A Guide to Owning a Listed Property’ contact The Listed Property Owners’ Club on 01795 844939, visit www.lpoc.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Throughout 2016 the work of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown will be marked with a major Festival of events, celebrating his life, work and legacy in the year of the 300th anniversary of his birth.
Royal Gardener and the grandfather of the profession of landscape architecture, Brown was an engineer, entrepreneur, salesman and extremely effective businessman. It was the combination of these skills which led to his success and his shaping people’s picture of the quintessential English countryside that is recognised throughout the world today.
This new Festival, funded by a £911,100 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and managed by the Landscape Institute, brings together for the first time a range of organisations to tell the story of this great man with more Brown sites made accessible for a wide range of audiences, and volunteers supported to develop their skills to help people understand the landscape as much as the house they may be visiting.
The memorable nickname ‘Capability’ is thought to come from his commenting to potential clients that their estate land had great “capabilities”. On launching the programme, Ceryl Evans, Festival Director said: ‘Brown’s amazing career consisted of his advising at around 250 sites covering an area of around 200 square miles, running a business stretching across England and Wales. We are delighted to have so many of these sites taking part in the Festival as they will be helping to tell the story of the impact and importance of this landscaping genius. As part of the legacy of the Festival we want to reach new audiences beyond his existing fans, to those who know nothing of his work but simply enjoy beautiful landscapes.’
Reading a Brown Landscape
In her new book Capability Brown And His Landscape Gardens (Pavilion Books), Dr Sarah Rutherford describes his work in detail and what makes it so special.
‘A simple palette of features was endlessly versatile when expertly and artistically applied to the uniqueness of a particular place: water as lake or river; sweeping grass in a park broken up by clumps and single trees; pleasure grounds and flower gardens; a kitchen garden, usually surrounded by woodland and belts. Some of his plans seem simple and possibly even dull, until you see them in the context of the actual sites and marvel at the effects he could create, apparently effortlessly, using trees, grass and water on a huge scale.’
Brown made parks look like pictures. Within his work Brown had a hierarchy of views – from the house, garden buildings and approaches, then from park and pleasure-ground walks, rides and viewpoints. Three elements made up a view: the foreground, middle ground and distant prospect. Views were often aligned around features in the wider landscape, particularly church towers and spires.
Trees: He used clumps of trees of various shapes and sizes to control the views, blocking some and framing others. Sometimes a single tree divides the view purposely, or is put in the only place where it does not block views. In this way he created a complex mesh of view lines within and beyond the setting, that are often not fully obvious today. Distant church towers, ancient ruins and hills were favourite targets, subtly framed with foreground trees.
The ha-ha: A sunken wall and ditch around the pleasure ground that formed a boundary without interrupting the view – became his trademark, which he used to such great effect to unlock his design palette and deceive the eye of the beholder into seeing a limitless park. This had already been tried and tested for several decades and he used it to evoke a sense of liberty and uplifting beauty.
Drives: Brown’s drives do not generally take the shortest route, but a circuitous one on a gentle gradient and almost have a cinematic quality. One of Brown’s skills was to hide the surface of drives crossing the grass and parkland, so that the park appeared as an unbroken lawn. This was cleverly done using subtle ground-modelling and is still difficult to achieve subtly, even with today’s technology.
Water: Brown was generally regarded as a master with water. He embraced new engineering techniques available for land drainage and the effect of a single great silvery sheet, or a never-ending serpentine river was Brown’s greatest icon. As a mirror for reflecting the house, garden buildings and trees, the surface provided an additional, ephemeral dimension to the view.
Ideally the water divided the pleasure ground from the park beyond, so that the owner could stroll by its shores on gravel paths and admire the acres of open grassland, park trees and woodland beyond the silvery sheet.
Tricks of the design trade gently deceived the viewer into believing these glinting sheets of water were natural, not the product of huge amounts of sweat and toil. To make the water seem endless Brown used curves to conceal the ends from each other, so that the whole expanse of water was not visible in one sweeping view. Natural rivers were also valued and sometimes enlarged or diverted.
I caught up with Joe Swift on a particularly persistently drizzly day – the sort where one looks out at the garden instead of finding themselves out and about in it. A hands-on designer himself, Joe has been a regular fixture on our screens since the nineties, appearing in BBC2’s Gardeners’ World since 1998 and presenting the coverage of Chelsea Flower Show and the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show. In the same way that interior or fashion trends ebb and flow, Joe has noticed many of the same changes in the way we approach garden design since he started appearing on TV – “I think the gardening world has changed a lot. When I first started on the telly the design interest was very contemporary – before that it has been your rectangular lawn with your borders on the outside and people couldn’t get past that more conventional layout. When you think about shows like Ground Force that’s where this kind of revolution to a more modern way of gardening was being put on a bigger stage and that’s when I joined Gardener’s World. The outdoor living aspect really came to the fore and plants became almost the secondary aspect. It’s a constantly changing industry, both in aesthetics and technology. Now we have a much better balance, including new considerations like encouraging wildlife and sustainability.”
More recently Joe has been a part of the wonderful Gardener of the Year Show, where amateur garden designers are judged on their ability to landscape and design to specific briefs. This new format drew on the popularity of shows like the Great British Bakeoff and has made gardening feel attainable again, with Joe acting as a mentor for the contestants “there were one or two people on the Gardener of the Year who were supremely talented. And what was also interesting was watching the learning curve of the other amateur designers – whoever didn’t get kicked out in the first round learnt so much from the experience in the way that they had to approach each project. There was so much to take on – time management, design, quality, and physically they were also exhausted too after three days of digging. The raw talent for some of them with a great eye was better than I anticipated. I think a lot of people felt it was really accessible even if they weren’t really that interested in gardening, and of course it fed well into Chelsea as the winning designer created a beautiful garden – we were so pleased with it.”
2015’s Chelsea Flower Show didn’t bring with it many avant guard styles, but the garden that won Best in Show was a very worthy winner, “Dan Pearson’s garden was an absolute triumph. It was inspired by the garden at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire and it was so ambitious and so well executed. Dan hadn’t actually exhibited at Chelsea for 10 years prior to this – he’s a British designer we should all feel very proud to have in our midst. He’s a genius – he doesn’t overwhelm you with design, but just intelligently works with the landscape to create something really special.” Not unlike Capability Brown then, the iconic 18th century landscape architect, who’s 300th anniversary we are celebrating this year in the year of the heritage garden.
Joe’s love of gardening, both watching a project evolve and the sheer joy of getting his hands dirty is abundantly clear. He has always had a love for the outdoors and from a young age took great delight in roaming around Hampstead Heath with friends. “We only had a small garden at home – which to my mother’s horror my brother and I used to wreck with a football – but my grandparents were really the gardeners and I used to spend weekends with them helping outdoors. I think it’s really important to get kids hooked when they’re young as it’s something they can come back to when they’re older and have their own homes. There are no negatives to gardening (apart form the occasional achey back which I think is the sign of a good day’s work!) – you learn about plants, you learn about the seasons, you understand the need to nurture and to have patience, it’s very rewarding and holds lots of life lessons.”
With so many commitments on screen and with his gardening practice Modular Garden, what is Joe’s approach to his own garden? “I’m a blitzer! I don’t potter, I like to attack it 3 or 4 times a year and when I get stuck in I really like to go for it. I’ve got quite a small garden in central London which has matured nicely but sometimes you need to get confident and be ballsy.” What would be your tips for helping a person inject some of their personality into a garden? Especially if they haven’t got a lot of space to work with? “The key is confidence, think about the style you are trying to create before you set foot in the garden centre or buy anything. Take photographs and use some tracing paper to try and see how the garden will look in 5 or 10 years and really take the time to plan and organise the space. Be creative and don’t be tempted to plonk things willy-nilly because good gardening is fundamentally about planning and creativity. Look at books and magazines and be confident in the style you are trying to create. Live with the plot – look at where the sun hits it and how it changed throughout the day. Always have somewhere to go at the end of the garden or you’ll never go down there! Try and get away from a rectangular lawn and boarders – try and get a sense of movement and loose the boundaries with climbers and shrubs so you can lose yourself in the little bubble. If it’s a small space go for two or three large items – picking lots of small bits will look under-scale, so be bold and have some real show stopping parts which help to define the space. Create something special and feel confident. Just like when you walk into the kitchen thinking I’m Delia or Jamie, go into your garden and think ‘I can design this garden’.”
Whether we live in towns or the countryside, we all know the importance of making our gardens are wildlife friendly. What should we be doing to help wildlife at home? “Plants that have berry, like ivy, really help provide food, as do roses with good hips. Birds have lost so much habitat that they rely on people putting food out in the garden.”
Joe’s schedule is already looking busy for 2016, but one of the big projects that stands out is his design for the Horatio Garden at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. “It’s a big project that needs lots of fundraising. It needs to be suitable for lots of children with spinal cord injuries who want to spend time in the garden and a roof top garden for other patients to enjoy – we are really looking for any pennies people can spend on the project. It’s so worthwhile.” And do you have any TV planned for the next year? “Yes you’ll see me on the usuals! Gardener’s World, Chelsea, Hampton Court Flower Show – it’s a tough job being at these lovely shows but someone has to do it!”
You can find out more about helping with the fundraising for Horatio’s Garden at Stoke Manderville at www.horatiosgarden.org.uk/fundraising
And there’s no better hobby than gardening. For those looking to get fit after the Christmas splurge, gardening is a sure way to keep trim, to learn new skills and to gain personal satisfaction having grown beautiful plants and wholesome and delicious vegetables.
Claire Greenslade, head gardener at Hestercombe Gardens near Taunton, guarantees you’ll have no regrets taking up gardening as a beginner, or building on your current knowledge.
Claire says: “With gardening no two days are the same, you can be outside enjoying all weathers and all that nature has to charm you with. I love that you can be eight or 108 years old and be a cracking gardener. All abilities can do it on some level. It’s a voyage of discovery that can take you all around the world and you never stop learning.”
Most people have some space in which to practice their gardening, even if it’s just a window box, you’ll gain enjoyment from watching something grow week by week.
Expert florist Jane Cowling of Eden Flower School and Wedding Florist in Taunton has been kind enough to give us a step by step guide to making our own fresh festive wreaths for Christmas.
1. Float the Oasis ring – dark green side down in a sink full of water for 20 seconds. Don’t push it under the water, let it soak up by itself.
2. Cut the spruce and ivy into lengths a maximum of 10cm long. You can get many pieces from each branch by careful, economical cutting.
3. With the ring soaked oasis side up, push in the lengths of foliage. Make sure they are pushed in well. The objective is to completely cover the frame. It helps if you poke in the spruce at different angles. Be careful not to loose the circle shape by using too long pieces of foliage.
4. When the frame is covered, prepare the decorations. Wire the pine cones by catching the bottom ears of the cone in a length of wire and twisting the ends together at the base, leaving 2 ‘legs’ of wire. Wire 2 slices of orange together in a similar manner. Wire together 3 cinnamon sticks leaving 2 wire legs to attach to frame. Make sure the wire is really tight as they slip out easily. You can cover the wire with a little bow of raffia for extra finish.
5. Make a bow with trailing ends, secured in the centre with a length of wire ready to poke into the frame.
6. Attach the bow to the wreath first by poking both ‘legs’ of wire into the frame securely.
7. Add all the remaining decorations securely in a similar manner.
8. Make a hanging loop by inserting the longest, thickest wire down between the oasis and polystyrene foam at the top of the wreath, fold back around the frame to create a loop and twist the ends together really securely – the design is quite heavy.
9. Hang your beautiful creation on your door and lap up the admiration!
If you are finding your green fingers are more fingers and thumbs, you can take up one of the fantastic courses at Eden Flower School and learn straight from the pros! Tel 01823 276633 or visit www.edenweddings.co.uk
To save hedgehogs and other wildlife from appalling suffering Ben Fogle, Patron of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) is backing the Society’s plea that bonfires should not be built until the day they are to be lit. This will not only save wildlife from burning to death but will also stop the bonfire from getting soaked should it rain the night before! Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS, said “Piles of bonfire material look like five star hotels to a hedgehog in search of a hibernation site. It is important to dismantle and move bonfire material that has been stored in advance on open ground. Move it to another spot just before lighting. Ensure it’s moved to clear ground – never on top of a pile of leaves as there could be a hedgehog underneath, and not too close to pampas grass which can ignite very easily and is another favourite spot for hedgehogs to hide under.”
If, whilst building, a bonfire is left unattended, for however short a time; it’s imperative to check for hedgehogs and other animals, including family pets, before lighting. Ben says “Please remember to check bonfires carefully for hedgehogs and other animals prior to lighting. Then if it is clear, light only from one side so as to allow an escape route for anything you may have missed.” As hedgehogs tend to hide in the centre and bottom two feet of the bonfire, check by gently lifting the bonfire section by section with a pole or broom. Never use a spade or fork as these can stab them. Using a torch will help and listen for a hissing sound, as this is the noise they make when disturbed.
Fay continues “If hedgehogs are found, take as much of the nest as you can and place them in a high-sided cardboard box with plenty of newspaper/old towelling. Ensure there are air holes in the lid and that the lid is secured firmly to the box, as hedgehogs are great climbers. Wear garden gloves so you don’t get human smells on them and to minimise stress caused to the hedgehog, also, it protects your hands from their spikes. Put the box in a safe place such as a shed or garage well away from the festivities and offer them meaty cat or dog food and fresh water to drink. Once the bonfire is totally dampened down, release the hedgehog under a hedge, bush or behind a stack of logs with more food and water.”
Going to an official organised fireworks display is a far safer option for both humans and animals.
For free advice and to obtain the names of carers in your area in advance of bonfire night, contact the BHPS on
01584 890 801 or see their website at www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk
Firework displays are always fun and have people from all generations in awe when they light up the sky. They also produce absolutely stunning images when blown up to large prints or a canvas for your wall. So with these tips from the Jessops Academy Team, you can make sure you capture these breath-taking moments perfectly for long lasting memories.
1. With any successful photograph, advanced planning is key in helping to capture that moment flawlessly. If it’s a public event, make sure you plan ahead by getting there early. Displays over water or impressive landmarks are very photogenic and always popular, so make sure you find your perfect spot with plenty of time.
2. Find out where the fireworks will be setting off from so you can get a good vantage point.
3. Cameras now are developing to help you take better photos without you having to know manual mode settings. So have a look on your scene modes (SCN on your mode dial) to see if it has a firework setting. The camera will take multiple photographs or set the aperture and shutter speed for you, giving you amazing results for you to treasure for ever.
4. If you’re using a camera that has manual controls for setting Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO, turn your camera’s mode dial to M. This will ensure you can control all of your settings and make any quick adjustments if needed.
5. Use a tripod to help you take a steady picture without having to touch the shutter button on the camera. Combine your tripod with your camera by either using the self-timer mode or preferably, a shutter release cable if your camera has this function. This setup will help you take beautiful pictures that are fixed and focused.
6. Use Bulb Mode. With your camera in M or manual on your mode dial, scroll your shutter speed all the way to its longest speed, this is usually between 15 – 30 seconds. Take another scroll and you should see B or Bulb. With bulb mode chosen, press down on the camera’s shutter or shutter release cable button which will then open the shutter, allowing it to stay open until you let go. This setting lets you hold open the camera’s shutter for as long as you want. Combining this tip with the 2 tips above is the ideal collaboration in helping you to create stunning images.
7. Trying to focus your camera on fireworks can be a real chore. One of the best methods to overcome this is to wait until the fireworks have started, and then use the bright lights as your focal point using the camera’s own auto-focus system. Once this is done, switch your camera/lens into manual focus so that your camera doesn’t keep trying to focus for every single picture.
8. Your camera’s ISO should be at its lowest setting – this is usually 100 or 200.
9. Vary your zoom. Zoom in and out for different effects, you can use a wide angle to look at the whole scene including people and buildings, or you can zoom in to isolate the beautiful colourful explosions.
10. Watch the wind so you don’t get smoke in the picture, or over yourself.
11. Set your camera up while it’s light outside or carry a small torch to see your settings at night. The torch is also useful if you drop things or need to look in your camera bag.
12. Experiment, the nice thing is you don’t have to wait until November 5th for the next display!
He has presented numerous programmes and writes regularly for the Sunday Telegraph and the Independent. He has also written numerous bestselling books. Ben campaigns tirelessly for conservation, the environment and animal welfare, is an ambassador for WWF, Medecins Sans Frontiere and Tusk, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the President of the Campaign for National Parks.
He has recently appeared in the series ‘Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild’, so we took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his adventures and found out about his latest book ‘Ben Fogle, Labrador, The Story of the World’s Favourite Dog’.
From your experience in filming the series, is there a common factor as to why people chose to leave civilisation behind?
They are all people who have realised their dreams. Many of us may have fantasised about cutting ourselves off from the grid but these are people who have actually done it. They are universally content. They are happy because they have done it.
You’ve been everywhere around the world, are there any stand-out locations which you could not see yourself living in?
Tristan da Cunha in the south Atlantic is a pretty extraordinary place. As is Pitcairn and Papua New Guinea. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to more than 70 countries.
Describe the most life-threatening situation you’ve been in whilst filming and would you hesitate to do it all again?
I have had plenty of life threatening experiences over the years from capsizing in the middle of the Atlantic to being attacked by wild Nile crocodiles while filming underwater in Botswana.
Having met numerous individuals during the course of the series, who are the standout people and why?
I think Galsheen from Restoration Island in Australia rates as one of the most fascinating. I loved his story and he even looked like Robinson Crusoe.
Do you think self-imposed exile is a good thing?
Absolutely. I love the idea as we are all too inextricably linked to society. Sometimes we need to take a step back to take a step forward.
Is there a common personality trait amongst all these people who shun civilisation?
They all have a confidence to walk the walk but few of us have the confidence to actually do it. By and large they all have a contentment, verging on happiness. No what ifs? They’ve realised their dreams and aspirations.
Do you think you share that trait? If not, do you admire it?
Hell yes. I’ve been marooned on a remote island for a year myself. All of my expeditions are arguably a form of self imposed exile in which I’m forced to ration my resources, just like our wildmen and women – I’d love to live as they do.
Who are your heroes?
The usual suspects. Shackleton, Scott, Amundsen and Thesiger. The old school pioneering explorers who lay the foundations for us all.
If you were trapped on a desert island (or chose to live on one), what would your necessities be?
Family. Not much else matters when you have young kids. I love to teach them how beautiful the wildness can be. Don’t be scared of it. Embrace it. Where Bear Grylls likes to emphasis the battle between man and nature, Wildmen celebrates the beautiful relationship.
What was your most challenging moment while filming the series?
We had pretty tough conditions in Alaska. But the Philippines was the most uncomfortable. I don’t think heat likes me very much. It makes for slightly uncomfortable but fascinating viewing. I am always amazed that these people are prepared to let me into their lives. They’ve often gone to get away from people.
How did filming the New Zealand episode compare to other locations? Were there any unique challenges/issues?
New Zealand was one of my favourites. Down near Milford Sound the family were very special. I loved the dynamic. The house and the lifestyle. It was all pretty idyllic.
How about people that you met on your way while working on Where the Wild Men Are – what pushed them to change their lives so drastically?
A change of life and a change of pace. They were all driven by making their lives simpler, not easier. They all wanted to cut their ties to the commercial and financial grid and ween themselves from the material world.
What’s the most difficult part when they take such a decision?
Often there is no going back. Many have sold everything to relocate in the wildest corners of the world. The reality is that once you severe your ties it’s very hard to get back on the ladder.
Have you had an influence on the choice of stories that you would go ahead in the programme?
We have a team of researchers who find our ‘wildmen’ I have been lucky enough to travel to more than seventy countries in the last ten years.
Which ones were the most shocking and difficult to understand?
None were shocking. Some were harder to understand. The unifying factor is that they are all happy. Many of them have a tough life in the wild but they still prefer it to the city.
What impact did that experienced have on you?
I spent a year living on a remote island myself. I have always dreamed of doing it again with my family. I’m often envious of their way of life.
Which part of such life would you actually appreciate and like to incorporate to yours?
Living in a wild place. I currently live in the middle of London but I want a big landscape.
Ben has written a social history of Labradors, and how they have become the world’s most beloved dogs. Many of our readers may recall his black Labrador, Inca, who famously accompanied him on numerous journeys and adventures.
Labradors are native to Newfoundland, where they worked side-by-side with fishermen, then brought to England in the 1800s by English ships. Labradors are popular as a family companion and also excel in hunting, tracking, retrieving, guiding and rescuing.
In this unique history of the Labrador, Ben investigates what makes them so special and why they are considered so trustworthy – 30% of dogs used as guide dogs in the UK by The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association are Labradors. They have an extraordinary capacity for companionship, intelligence, work ethic and loyalty.
Exploring their origin, early characteristics, their use as gun dogs, as therapy dogs, as police dogs, as search and rescue dogs and last – and absolutely not least – as family pets, Ben draws on the extraordinary experiences we have encountered with Labradors to tell the story of a dog breed which has captured our imagination and love for hundreds of years.
Labrador: The World’s Favourite Dog by Ben Fogle is available now.