Ex-Autumnwatch host Martin Hughes-Games on upcoming Harrogate Royal Hall show

Former presenter Martin Hughes-Games tells Ann Chadwick about the new stage show he is doing with Iolo Williams in Yorkshire about the TV show and their wildlife adventures.

Martin Hughes-Games (right) during his time presenting Springwatch with Michaela Strachan and Chris Packham. Picture: Nigel Slater.
Martin Hughes-Games (right) during his time presenting Springwatch with Michaela Strachan and Chris Packham. Picture: Nigel Slater.

TV presenter Martin Hughes-Games is nervous. His five-year-old has just started a new school.

“I think he’s more relaxed than I am, which is great, I hope it remains that way,” he says quickly. “I’m also making blackberry jelly. I’m extremely tense. I’m getting to the setting point, and don’t know if it’s going to work or not.”

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It’s a far cry from the days of broadcasting live to millions on the set of Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch (‘the Watches’) several nights a week.

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“I’m so grateful to people, there was such uproar about it,” Martin said.

“I went to see the-then head of factual television and he said: ‘I’ve had letters from very angry ladies written in green ink! We’re going to re-instate you’.”

Martin is heading to Harrogate with fellow Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams to present their family-friendly Wildlife Road Trip show at the Royal Hall on October 17.

He promises to tell audiences about what goes on behind the scenes of Springwatch.

“Some of it un-transmittable!” he laughs. “It will be highly entertaining. Iolo and I will be talking about how we got into television, both very different routes and rather odd ways. Mine involved a rather beautiful actress.”

Martin, 65, flat-shared with Amanda Redman in Bristol, where the BBC Natural History unit is based, and she got him an interview with one of the producers she was working with.He started out producing wildlife TV for the first 30 years, before presenting the Watches for 12 years.

“Wildlife Road Trip draws on all those years of wildlife film-making to show some of the highlights of my career, such as going into a hot air balloon to test how fast a peregrine falcon can fly, jumping out of the hot air balloon, being chased by the falcon and finding out how fast it was going while we were in freefall,” he laughs.

He says his fans were, on the whole, lovely. “Apart from the odd lewd suggestion and unusual offer, I’ve never had anything totally bonkers I’m glad to say. That’s one of the lovely things about working on the Watches – people love the content, seeing inside the nests, and by proxy they kind of like you as well, so most of the feeling you get is very positive and very warm.”

He adds: “If you go to a play and somebody forgets their lines, it makes you incredibly tense. On Springwatch there was a little bit of banter. I felt it was very important to be relaxed, and I hope that came across and audiences just enjoyed being in our company and relishing the wildlife we’re lucky to still have in the UK.”

Before working, Martin obtained a degree in zoology, so talking about his passion on TV was a dream job, which goes some way explaining his zeal.

David Attenborough’s always said if you get people interested, they’ll care more and that’s certainly true.”

Martin quit Springwatch a few years after being reinstated in 2016. Had he had enough of TV, or does he grieve those days? “Both of those things. I felt I’ve been doing this just long enough. It was a bit like a see-saw banging down on one side. It felt time to go. But, saying that, I do miss it very, very much. I miss the excitement of it.

“It’s very exciting when you’re about to go live with 30 seconds to go. Chris (Packham) would always start to tell a joke which would drive me and Michaela (Strachan) mad as we were trying to remember what we’ve got to say, and he’s babbling on about some blasted joke, and the punchline comes with five seconds to go. It was absolutely crackers, but part of the fun of it all.”

Wildlife Road Trip is on October 17, 7pm, at the Royal Hall, Harrogate.