Ben Fogle on the wonders of Yorkshire and why he's a big fan of Amanda Owen

Ben Fogle has long been an admirer of Yorkshire and there’s one word, in particular, that peppers his conversation whenever he talks about the county. Honesty.

Ben Fogle is among the big names appearing at the ‘5 on the Farm’ festival this summer. (Picture: Channel 5/Renegade Pictures).

“Yorkshire is one of my favourite counties. It’s honest and I think a lot of people like that honesty,” he says.

“If you look at why Amanda Owen and her whole family are so popular it’s because you believe them and what they’re saying. I think people have got tired of inauthenticity. If you look at social media and the slight fakery around heavily edited photographs that promise perfect bodies or perfect lives, people have grown tired of that.

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“I think people want to see honesty and for me, Yorkshire is a very honest county. It’s within the blood of the people, it’s to do with the fact that it is still quite a wild county, and by that I mean a beautiful, rugged wilderness. Much of that is managed or maintained within National Parks but there is still a connection to the land and that’s really important.”

Ben is a big fan of Amanda Owen who is also appearing at Cannon Hall Farm. (YPN).

The intrepid TV presenter and adventurer is among the big names who will be appearing live on stage at Channel 5’s first ever ‘5 on the Farm’ festival taking place at Cannon Hall Farm, near Barnsley, over the August Bank Holiday.

And he will be regaling stories from his Tales from the Wilderness Show, everything from swimming with crocodiles, to conquering Mount Everest and rowing the Atlantic Ocean.

Several of Channel 5’s most popular shows are filmed in the county and Fogle believes they tap into what viewers want. “I think post-pandemic a lot of people are looking for simplicity again and farm life, rural shows and off- grid living in Yorkshire, in particular, is something that really resonates with many people,” he says.

“They aren’t necessarily looking to live in a cabin in the woods, but to certainly live a simpler, slower life. So hopefully this [festival] might empower people and show them how they can do it themselves.”

Fogle stars in the hit TV show New Lives in the Wild. (Picture: Channel 5).

Among those also taking part in the festival is Amanda Owen, who Fogle first visited about six years ago for one of his TV series. “I spent a week with her and her family and as soon as I met them I knew there was something very special. I’m thrilled that she’s getting the adulation she deserves because she is extraordinary. People admire her, and so do I. I admire her parenting style, and I admire their lifestyle and work ethic.”

There’s also that honesty he talked about earlier. “She’s the antithesis of a lot of people on social media in terms of the fake sell, because her’s isn’t fake. It’s very real and that’s why the show is so popular. People like her gritty determination,” he says.

“The last time I was in Yorkshire was to revisit her and when I came back home I burst through the door and said to my family ‘right, our next holiday is going to be up in Yorkshire. We’ll visit the beautiful coastline, the Dales and the moors’.

"I get really enthused because we really do have a stunning country and I think a lot of people forgot that. The attraction of sunshine pulls people from these shores but I think this summer will be very different and we’ll have a real resurgence and a celebration of Britishness post-Brexit, because when the sun shines here it really is magical.”

Over the past two decades Fogle has become a familiar face to viewers and during that time he’s shown he’s not afraid to take on a challenge. He’s run the Marathon des Sables – dubbed the “toughest footrace on Earth” – across the Sahara where temperatures can exceed 50C; he has rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, travelled to the South Pole on foot, and come face to face with some of the most feared predators on the planet.

Fogle first came to the public’s attention on the reality show Castaway in 2000, which followed a group of people marooned on a remote island off Scotland. This opened the door to a television career that has seen him presenting everything from Crufts and Countryfile, to swimming with crocodiles and running across deserts.

Where, then, does this spirit of adventure come from? “It’s not from my parents. My father’s a vet and my mother’s an actress. I think it came from my own childhood failings. I failed a lot. I wasn’t good academically and I wasn’t good at sports. It took my early travels, when I was in my late teens after leaving school and I went to Latin America, to discover something that I not only loved but was reasonably good at.”

Since then he has travelled all over the world, but like the rest of us has been confined to exploring the world closer to home. “I’ve spent a lot of time filming here over the years but I had sort of abandoned the UK for overseas filming for the past decade, and actually it’s been really enjoyable to be back here in the British Isles, especially as a father with young children.”

He says the pandemic is having a profound effect on tourism globally. “Somewhere like the Galapagos Islands is never going to find a native audience who can fill that void that was once filled by international tourists flocking there and putting a lot of money into the local economy.

"But when you look at nations like France, Italy and Spain, there will be a lot of national travel. It’s not as if those beaches will be empty. It’s not like the Amalfi Coast will be denuded of people, because more people will be staying at home and that’s not a bad thing for the future of travel.”

The pandemic, he says, has also reinforced the importance of nature. “We know there are problems in the world like climate change. I know there are deniers but I think it’s fair to say that something is happening and if our children start to engage with the natural world, first of all they will become more caring and compassionate and try to protect it, but it’s also good for our sense of wellbeing.

“This notion that wellbeing is all about physical health – go to the gym, get a six pack – that’s not the case. It might make you feel nice and that works for some people, but for me it’s more important that people look after their mental wellbeing.

"You only have to look at what the Scandinavians and Japanese have been doing for years with forest bathing and lying on the ground and staring up at the canopy. Well, the same goes for a yomp in the Yorkshire Dales, or the moors, or along the coastline around Whitby.

“People need to feel the sun on their skin and the wind on their cheeks. It’s for our mental wellbeing, and one of the reasons I’m so worried about the mental health pandemic that’s going to come out of this extraordinary period of lockdowns, is that people haven’t had access to all of that and it’s so important.”

The ‘5 on the Farm’ festival takes place from August 28-30, at Cannon Hall Farm, near Barnsley. Per day tickets are priced £49.95 for adults, £24.95 for children (aged two-15) and free for children under two. For more information and to book tickets go to www.5onthefarm.com

TV stars head down to the farm

The ‘5 on the Farm’ festival brings together the stars of some of Channel 5’s most popular TV shows.

As well as Ben Fogle, who will perform his ‘Tales From the Wilderness’ show live, the main stage will feature Amanda Owen in ‘The Yorkshire Shepherdess Live’, and TV vets Peter Wright and Julian Norton will be performing ‘The Yorkshire Vet Live: It Shouldn’t Happen to a Yorkshire Vet’.

Other highlights include stars of This Week on the Farm, Rob and Dave Nicholson, and their show: Rob and Dave: Oh ’eck Live!’

Helen Skelton is due to appear at the festival along with Adam Henson, sharing his tales of farming life, and members of the cast and crew of Channel 5’s hit remake of All Creatures Great and Small.