Ju­lia Brad­bury on her mir­a­cle fam­ily, TV hus­bands and her new show cel­e­brat­ing Bri­tain’s most glo­ri­ous walks

Daily Mail Weekend Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - By Jenny John­ston

Ju­lia Brad­bury’s tod­dler twin daugh­ters have pitched up in the mid­dle of our in­ter­view, de­liv­ered by the nanny who, she ad­mits, ‘ holds our fam­ily to­gether’. They are in their el­e­ment, stomp­ing through the leaves that have been col­lected for the pho­to­shoot, and lin­ing up the shoes Mummy will wear.

What shoes too – all sky­scraper heels and be­jew­elled fronts. Lit­tle Xan­the and Zena, aged two, look at them in won­der. ‘They only see me in train­ers or walk­ing boots,’ laughs Ju­lia, who is known in some quar­ters as the Walk­ing Man’s Crum­pet, a nod to the myr­iad pro­grammes she’s made about the magic of the coun­try walk. ‘I don’t have much call for heels these days,’ she con­fesses.

Many women ag­o­nise over how much they should bring their chil­dren to work – not nec­es­sar­ily lit­er­ally, like to­day, but in terms of how much they talk about them, and how their fam­ily sit­u­a­tion im­pacts on pro­fes­sional de­ci­sions. Not Ju­lia. When ne­go­ti­at­ing new jobs, she says she’s made a de­ci­sion to be com­pletely up front. She quit Coun­try­file – surely one of the plum pre­sent­ing jobs on Bri­tish TV – af­ter she had one child be­cause she couldn’t see how she could com­bine the nec­es­sary trav­el­ling. There was a brief ‘I can have it all’ mo­ment when she took her first born, Ze­phyr, now six, to Amer­ica on lo­ca­tion but then came the twins and it seems the idea of them all on set, en masse, has gone the way of rest­ful nights and a so­cial life.

‘You can’t,’ she ad­mits. ‘You can just about do it with one. With three it’s just not pos­si­ble. Be­fore you have kids I don’t think you ap­pre­ci­ate how life-al­ter­ing it is. Ev­ery as­pect of your life has changed for­ever. Ev­ery ca­reer de­ci­sion, ev­ery night out, re­quires a thought process you didn’t have to make be­fore.’

So how many nights out does she man­age? She snorts with laugh­ter and re­minds me she’s 47 with three small kids. ‘None! I don’t want to go out. You stop all that. We aren’t her­mits, but the fact is you don’t want to do it any more. You don’t have the en­ergy. I was that per­son who worked all the time and had a fan­tas­tic so­cial life too. Now all our so­cial en­gage­ments are child-re­lated.’

It’s go­ing to get worse too. Next year her twins go to school, and it is the pol­icy for them to be in sep­a­rate classes. ‘Think of the num­ber of birth­day par­ties we’ll have to fac­tor into a week­end,’ she says, in mock hor­ror. ‘It’s the thing, too, to in­vite all their class­mates, so we’re look­ing at two dif­fer­ent par­ties on the same day, with 70 kids in­volved.’

But Ju­lia wouldn’t have it any other way. She still has the air of a mum who can’t quite be­lieve she has three chil­dren, be­cause the path to moth­er­hood has been harder than she’s pre­vi­ously re­vealed. When she first de­cided Ju­lia on the coastal St Ives to Zen­nor walk

she’d like to give Ze­phyr a lit­tle brother or sis­ter, it didn’t hap­pen. It took five stress­ful rounds of IVF be­fore she be­came preg­nant – against all the odds. ‘I was 44 when they were born. I was high risk in ev­ery cat­e­gory. By all sta­tis­ti­cal chances I shouldn’t have got preg­nant, even with IVF. I should have lost one of the twins. As ev­ery sin­gle month of the preg­nancy passed I was just so grate­ful. I hate the term “blessed” but I was.’

There’s noth­ing rose-tinted about her mem­o­ries of the twins’ birth, though. The girls were born 45 min­utes apart – an unusu­ally long gap with twins. A planned C-sec­tion be­cause one of the girls was in the breech po­si­tion was scrapped just the day be­fore she went into labour be­cause the baby had turned, mean­ing a nat­u­ral de­liv­ery was pos­si­ble. Xan­the emerged with­out too much dif­fi­culty, but Zena was more prob­lem­atic. ‘She’d turned the wrong way and sud­denly it got very com­pli­cated and medics were run­ning into the room.’ Amid the com­mo­tion, Ju­lia was sud­denly acutely aware it was her own life that was in dan­ger. ‘ They couldn’t stop the bleed­ing. I re­mem­ber look­ing down and there was so much blood. You hear of women bleed­ing out, don’t you? I re­mem­ber say­ing to the con­sul­tant, “Please don’t let me die”, and he was shak­ing his head and say­ing, “I won’t, I won’t”. But there was blood all over the place, on the floor. I was think­ing, “Please don’t let this be the way”.’

She shud­ders, and the laughs com­ing from the girls try­ing on her shoes sud­denly seem more poignant. Lit­tle won­der she seems prag­matic about hav­ing had to wave good­bye to cer­tain types of jobs just be­cause she can’t be away from home for weeks at a time. Al­though Ju­lia says she and her part­ner, prop­erty devel­oper Ger­ard Cunningham, ‘ab­so­lutely

work as a team’, she ad­mits her chil­dren don’t want her to go away at all.

‘My kids hate it. Zena in par­tic­u­lar gets very up­set when she sees me pack­ing a bag. She’ll al­ways cry, “Mummy, I don’t want you to go to work.”’ Is it a nec­es­sary evil? ‘It’s not just about the money. It’s your iden­tity. It’s also about be­ing an ex­am­ple to them. But I do think you have to be hon­est with the peo­ple you work with and say, “Yes, I can do this” or “No, I can’t do that”. I wouldn’t want to short change any­one. I wouldn’t want to take on a job I couldn’t ful­fil if the con­straints of moth­er­hood made it more dif­fi­cult. You don’t want peo­ple say­ing, “Her heart isn’t in it.”’

Few are as can­did about this sort of strug­gle. Once, she says, her hon­esty was used against her when TV bosses tried to pay her less be­cause she was up front about the hours she could work. ‘Was it used against me? Yes, it was an ex­cuse [to pay less] rather than a ne­go­ti­at­ing tac­tic, I think.’ At the time, a few years ago, she did not make a fuss. ‘I let it go. Some­times the right thing to do is to fight and cre­ate a hoo-ha, some­times it’s to let it go.’ The land­scape is very dif­fer­ent to­day, given the con­tro­versy about equal pay in TV. She shrugs. ‘Maybe if it hap­pened again now it would be a dif­fer­ent story.’

On pa­per, her lat­est show sounds like ex­actly the sort of job that would be tricky for her to take on, given it in­volved film­ing in gor­geous lo­ca­tions in Wales, Scot­land, North­ern Ire­land and through­out Eng­land, from the Lakes to St Ives in Cornwall, up hills and down dales. Bri­tain’s Favourite Walks: Top 100 is a two-and-a-halfhour pro­gramme based on a poll of 8,000 walk­ing en­thu­si­asts that takes the viewer to all corners of the UK.

It must have taken more than a few break­fasts away from home to film, then? ‘Well, for this one I didn’t get to do ev­ery walk,’ she ad­mits, ex­plain­ing that she phys­i­cally com­pleted only a hand­ful her­self, while other en­thu­si­asts, some celebs among them, were brought in to do the rest. Fa­mous faces like Robert Bathurst, Ade Ed­mond­son, Janet Street-Porter, Larry Lamb and Cath Tyldes­ley take off on their own favourite walks, while walk­ing ex­perts, na­ture afi­ciona­dos and mem­bers of the pub­lic of­fer in­sights into the hikes. These in­clude the Rye to Cam­ber Sands walk in Sus­sex and a trip up the stun­ning Scafell Pike in the Lake District.

Ju­lia’s long been a pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate of walk­ing, whether as a hobby, a fitness tool or a way to stay sane. She’s had her own men­tal health is­sues (she’s been very open be­fore about how she had coun­selling in her thir­ties) and says walk­ing helps her ‘clear her head and think things through’. ‘I wasn’t ac­tu­ally di­ag­nosed with clin­i­cal de­pres­sion, I was just strug­gling with some per­sonal is­sues and work, and things got on top of me. But I’m not squea­mish, I don’t think sub­jects like this should be taboo. We all need help some­times. I saw some­one for about three months and he was bril­liant.’

There’ve been no sim­i­lar life wob­bles since? This chap­ter of her life, jug­gling young chil­dren and a de­mand­ing job does sound par­tic­u­larly stress­ful. ‘No, be­cause this is what I wanted more than any­thing. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, you’re per­ma­nently knack­ered. But I wanted my babies more than any­thing. It’s my job now to make it work.’

Her own favourite walks are in the Peak District where she grew up, be­cause they’re tied with child­hood mem­o­ries. ‘That was where I walked with my dad. Long gone are the days when we’d walk moun­tains to­gether. His knees are go­ing. But we still do gen­tle am­bles.’

And her mum? She laughs. ‘My job is all about get­ting peo­ple to walk and I haven’t man­aged it with my mum. When Dad and I did a walk she’d meet us at the end with a pic­nic but she’s never been up a moun­tain in her life. I’ve failed there.’

She says she’s a ‘com­plete mix’ of her mother and father. Her dad Michael is ‘quite re­served, very Bri­tish’ and her mum, Chrissi, who’s Greek, is the op­po­site. Ju­lia says she her­self can get quite ‘Greek’ with the kids. ‘The Greek bit is def­i­nitely in me – bub­bling over, fierce, pas­sion­ate. I can be a hand­ful. The kids don’t want me to get an­gry. I don’t think I’m a shouty mum but they do say, “Mummy, don’t shout.”’

She says she’s promised her part­ner she won’t talk too much about him – ‘This isn’t his world’ – but it’s clear the fact that house­hold and child­care chores are shared equally is key to her suc­cess. ‘There’s par­ity there. We’re both house­wives. I think things have changed so much in homes – it’s not the 1950s any more – but it would be good to see that re­flected in work­places. Ev­ery­one loves to see pictures of the Hol­ly­wood star who’s hands on with his kids, but what about the man who works in the tax of­fice? There’s still a cul­ture that it isn’t OK for him to say he needs to go to the na­tiv­ity play.’

She and Ger­ard have never mar­ried, and have no plans to do so. ‘I’ve never had the vi­sion of the big white wed­ding. It’s not my cup of tea and I don’t think we need to. We’re in­di­vid­u­als. You don’t need mar­riage to have a strong fam­ily unit.

Plus have you seen how long peo­ple spend ar­rang­ing wed­dings? I can’t think of any­thing worse.’

In­ter­est­ingly she’s had quite a string of TV ‘hus­bands’ – be­ing paired up with, among oth­ers, Nicky Camp­bell, Nick Knowles, Ben Shep­hard, Tim Vine, Richard Ham­mond, Adrian Simp­son and Matt Baker. Oh and John Craven on Coun­try­file, of course. ‘But don’t call John my telly hus­band. He was most def­i­nitely my un­cle. I still call him Un­cle John.’

For Bri­tain’s Favourite Walks her side­kick is pre­sen­ter and 2016 Strictly win­ner Ore Oduba. ‘We had a lot of fun film­ing,’ says Ju­lia. ‘He tried to teach me the samba and I taught him about scram­bling fells!’

Ju­lia’s stint pre­sent­ing Coun­try­file came af­ter the de­par­ture of Miriam O’Reilly, who suc­cess­fully sued the BBC for age dis­crim­i­na­tion fol­low­ing her re­moval from the show’s pre­sent­ing team. When in 2014, af­ter the em­ploy­ment tri­bunal’s ver­dict, Ju­lia said the de­ci­sion to drop Miriam was not about age, Miriam was fu­ri­ous, ac­cus­ing her of ‘****-lick­ing’ [male BBC ex­ec­u­tives] on Twit­ter.

In light of the furore over the male/fe­male pay di­vide at the BBC, what’s Ju­lia’s opin­ion? She says it’s ‘dif­fi­cult’. ‘As a gen­eral rule I be­lieve there should be par­ity. If you’re do­ing the same job and have the same level of ex­pe­ri­ence, Ju­lia and her new

‘TV hus­band’ Ore

then yes, ab­so­lutely there should be equal pay. But there’s a slightly muddy area in TV where you have a dif­fer­ent measure of celebrity, or star qual­ity. It’s a dif­fi­cult area to de­fine.’

The BBC pat­tern, how­ever, would sug­gest it’s al­ways the male star that shines brighter. ‘Yes, and that’s clearly not the case,’ she says. Has Ju­lia per­son­ally been in the sit­u­a­tion where she dis­cov­ered her telly hus­band was be­ing paid more than her? ‘No,’ she says. ‘At the start I never knew what any­one else was earn­ing. You’d never ask. But one time I dis­cov­ered my male co-pre­sen­ter was earn­ing less. I know he got a pay ad­just­ment very, very quickly, bring­ing us up to the same level. Would that have hap­pened the other way round? I don’t think the fe­male would have reached equal pay as quickly.’

The male-fe­male TV pair­ing is oh so tra­di­tional, though. Has she ever been paired with a woman? ‘No!’ she says, ‘But I’d love that. Why not? I know the con­ven­tion is to have a man and a woman but look at Strictly – Clau­dia and Tess dis­proved that. I’d like to see it hap­pen more. I un­der­stand they want to have peo­ple both men and women can re­late to, but au­di­ences know you don’t need a man to tell you one thing and a woman to tell you an­other. A telly wife? Bring it on!’ Bri­tain’s Favourite Walks: Top 100 is on Tues­day at

7.30pm on ITV.

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