Dublin-born TV presenter Julia Bradbury is a familiar face on TV thanks to her work on shows ranging from Top Gear and Watchdog to Wainwright Walks and Railway Walks. She can currently be seen hosting Countryfile, and her latest series South Africa Walks is out now on DVD. Away from TV, Julia is the 2010 president of the Ramblers.
YOU’RE A REGULAR VISITOR TO SOUTH AFRICA, WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE COUNTRY THAT YOU LOVE?
I’ve got family there, so that’s always a pull to a country. Also, some of my best friends that I made in London are South Africans and over the years, as happens with South Africans, they all end up going home, lured by the blue skies and the lifestyle. So I’m constantly going back to see them, and catch up with them, and I think my love of the country was borne out of that.
WAS IT GOOD TO SHOW A DIFFERENT SIDE TO THE COUNTRY?
Yes, I’m always surprised when I talk to people that they question going to South Africa, they question the safety. I suppose because I’m such a regular traveller there, that side isn’t something that has daunted me or stopped me from visiting at all. Like everywhere, South Africa has an edge and like everywhere you have to be careful and aware, but no more than anywhere else to be honest.
HAVE YOU BEEN PLEASED BY THE REACTION TO YOUR WALKS SERIES?
The reaction has been a complete surprise and absolutely wonderful. It’s lovely to be a woman at the forefront of this. I was at a photo shoot yesterday, and the stylist said to me that she only started watching the Wainwright Walks series because it was a woman doing it and that opened it up for her. I think the outdoor world can be a quite maledominated world, and there’s a tendency to be quite extreme and quite gung-ho. That’s not to say I don’t have a spirit of adventure. I’ll have a go at lots of things and enjoy it, and hopefully that enthusiasm does come across.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE MORE SURVIVAL-BASED PRESENTERS LIKE BEAR GRYLLS AND RAY MEARS?
The thing about Ray Mears and Bear Grylls is that they’re eminently watchable and what they do is very exciting, but it’s not necessarily what people want to do. I like to think that the walks I’m doing are quite achievable. I think that is part of the appeal - I don’t bed under a cow skin and eat dung from the Serengeti, I take a backpack with me. Things happen, thing go wrong, you get stuck on a mountain in a lightning storm, but it’s a much more approachable kind of a watch.
YOU HAD A TOUGH YEAR LAST YEAR (JULIA STEPPED DOWN FROM HER PRESENTING ROLE ON WATCHDOG WHILE IRREGULARITIES IN HER FREQUENT FLYER ACCOUNT WERE INVESTIGATED, AND RETURNED AFTER BEING CLEARED). IS IT REWARDING THAT THIS YEAR SEEMS TO BE GOING WELL?
I did have a bad year last year, and the story which hit the headlines, which was completely untrue, was absolutely shattering and had a huge affect on me and my family. I’ve been in telly for nearly 15 years and it’s the first time that a story like that has ever broken about me. You feel completely helpless because you are at the mercy of the papers and they have particular headlines they want to run because it sells newspapers. The most frustrating thing is when you sit down and you tell people the truth and it still doesn’t get printed and your voice isn’t heard.
YOU RECENTLY POSED NAKED FOR THE GIVE UP YOUR CLOTHES FOR CANCER RESEARCH CAMPAIGN, WAS THAT A GOOD EXPERIENCE?
It was a fantastic experience. I did that primarily because I do a lot for cancer charities. I have a lot of friends who I’ve lost to cancer so I do as much as I can. That was coupled with the fact that I thought it was a really fun campaign, and I’m getting to that stage in my life where in a few years time, if someone asked me to take my clothes off, I don’t think I’d be able to say yes.