Kate Humble “I’m Happiest In My Wellies”
Kate Humble’s latest series allows her to get muddy again!
Intrepid TV presenter Kate Humble loves nothing more than getting stuck in to outdoor adventures. On TV we’ve seen her birthing lambs on LambingLive, hanging out by volcanoes ( VolcanoLive) and even swimming naked in OffThe BeatenTrack.
Kate revels in the outdoors – and yet she says the show that means most to her is her new series with a business theme. BacktotheLand, currently showing on BBC2, sees Kate meet entrepreneurs who are setting up new businesses in a bid to make a country living viable.
Kate often becomes emotional on camera as she meets people trying to forge a new life in rural Britain.
“This series is particularly close to my heart, because I have been through a lot of what our contributors are going through,” says Kate (49). “I feel connected to the subject because I have made the same mistakes and have shed as many tears setting up my business. I honestly think if you don’t cry, you haven’t got a business!”
Kate has done just what the contributors are doing, setting up a rural business, Humble by Nature, in 2011. She and her husband, TV producer Ludo Graham, were looking to rent ten acres of land on which Kate could keep a permanent flock of sheep; instead, she explains ruefully, they ended up buying a 117-acre farm in Monmouthshire to prevent the council selling it off for housing.
The land is farmed by tenant farmers and runs courses in lambing, bee keeping, and other country activities. But Kate faced a heartbreaking setback in late 2015 when the farm’s café and shop had to be closed after failing to make enough money to cover costs.
“It was devastating,” recalls Kate. “I would wake up and say, ‘Today I’m not going to cry,’ and then I’d be in Waitrose and someone would say, ‘When’s the café reopening?’ and I’d be in floods,” recalls Kate with a wry smile. “So I’ve been through the mill with it, too.”
In BacktotheLand Kate is meeting businesspeople at a crucial stage of expansion or upheaval – among them are a Cornish seaweed company, Droitwich Salt from the Midlands, a chilli farm in Gloucester, truffles from Wiltshire, wasabi grown in Hampshire and skyr [an Icelandic yogurt) made in Yorkshire.
Kate says she hopes the show strikes a blow for the image of country dwellers like her. “There’s an idea that everyone living in the countryside is a bit of a yokel hanging by the gate chewing grass, when actually I’ve come across real pioneering spirit and innovation in the countryside,” enthuses Kate.
On the flipside, the series gives fresh hope to those wishing to quit the rat race to enjoy a rural life and work for themselves. “After the first series last year, I heard from so many people saying, ‘Gosh, I want to do that!’”
Kate warns anyone contemplating such a drastic move that it’s no easy ride.
“Yes, the show does give an element of people living the dream, but we wanted to show that it’s not just dreamy – starting a business and working off the land is really hard work and it requires skill and guts and sheer determination and often quite a lot of tears.
“These businesses are
“I have made the same mistakes…”
not fluffy hobbies – people are putting their lives and souls into them and they have to work.”
Kate remains one of our biggest proponents of countryside living. In 2007 she and Ludo decamped from London to make their home in the Wye Valley, buying a farmhouse with four acres. They live there with an ever-growing menagerie, and Kate, who grew up in rural Berkshire, feels settled.
She’s happiest on camera in wellies and an anorak and resolutely turns down offers to “glam up”. She famously turned down an offer to appear on StrictlyCome Dancing and says that as quizmaster of BBC1’s animal-themed quiz show CuriousCreatures, which returns later this spring, she grows impatient when her make-up is being applied.
“I’m permanently in a bobble hat and covered in mud in this series of Backto theLand and couldn’t be happier,” she says.
And as she approaches her 50th birthday in December, Kate says she’s more comfortable in her skin than ever. “I was crippled in my late teens and twenties by worrying ‘Am I wearing the wrong thing?’ and ‘Is my hair weird?’” says Kate. “And one of the lovely things about getting older is you don’t care as much. You grow into yourself. I’m really comfortable with being the scruffy one!”