Walk­ing in the Lake Dis­trict with the girls

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

A per­fect week­end has to be or­dained in the stars be­cause it’s so rare that ev­ery­one in my fam­ily is avail­able, but I’ll try and imag­ine one. On the Fri­day night I’d come home to ru­ral Here­ford­shire from wher­ever I’d been film­ing. I am very lucky to travel the amount that I do but the best jour­ney is al­ways the one home to my front door. I wish I could say we’d have some ex­otic home-cooked meal but we wouldn’t, we’d or­der a Chi­nese take­away and eat it in the front room.

I’m an early riser by choice and when­ever work makes me get up at 5am, I love it. How­ever, none of the three women with whom I share my house – my wife, Mindy, and my daugh­ters Izzy, 14, and Wil­low, 11 – like it at all. So first thing I’d take my dog Bleaberry, a lit­tle bor­der col­lie pup named after Bleaberry Tarn in the Lake Dis­trict, and run her around the hill op­po­site our house.

Af­ter­wards I’d wake up the girls. Best to be armed with a long stick or a klaxon at this point – it’s very dan­ger­ous. Then, dur­ing a per­fect week­end, Izzy and I would get on my mo­tor­bike and head off for But­ter­mere, in the Lake Dis­trict. Our crash hel­mets are Blue­toothed to­gether so she chats away, and along the route we like to stop at some of those re­ally cheesy tea rooms you get at cas­tles. We swag­ger in all tough in our bike kit, swear­ing un­der our breath, and then or­der a cup of tea, a hot choco­late and two cream cakes.

Mean­while, in an ideal world, Mindy and Wil­low, who are the horse nuts in our fam­ily, would pile their ponies into a knack­ered old horse lorry (it would be mirac­u­lously clean too, not the foul-smelling stink­ing ruin it cur­rently is) and drive up be­hind us. We’d all con­vene at But­ter­mere, which is my favourite place in the world with­out ex­cep­tion. Then Mindy and Wil­low would set off on a hack around the lake and Izzy and I would follow.

There’s a beau­ti­ful walk where you go up the shoul­ders of Red Pike, High Stile, drop down a lit­tle bit so you can see into En­nerdale and then up Haystacks, where Al­fred Wain­wright’s ashes were scat­tered. It would be a bit windy and rainy and the girls might moan, but ac­tu­ally they’d love it. Or just hate me. Of course, we’d have to stop for lunch on the walk too: by tra­di­tion I al­ways have a tin of tuna, which I eat with a fork, some of that hor­ri­ble Peperami, a lit­tle block of Ken­dal mint cake and a bot­tle of wa­ter. That’s glam­orous, that is.

Later, we’d meet up with some of the other fam­i­lies we know and sit in the bar of the Bridge Ho­tel – a tremen­dous place – play­ing cards, drink­ing too much and eat­ing our­selves almost un­con­scious while the kids loon around in the camp­site. Of course, we’d all brag and lie about where we’d walked that day too, as is tra­di­tion in the Lake Dis­trict.

Then we’d all set off back home the fol­low­ing day. I don’t have a set rou­tine on a Sun­day be­cause it’s en­tirely pos­si­ble I’ll be work­ing, and it’s no good if I wake up at 5am in the mid­dle of the jun­gle on a Top Gear Spe­cial and my whole body is cry­ing out for a roast and the Sun­day pa­pers. In­stead, a Sun­day at home in­volves the same sort of thing as a Satur­day in the

Herbal tea or stiff drink? I love both but I’m more likely to go for a stiff drink. I do like a gin and tonic.

Favourite joke? A Swedish guy goes into a chemist and says, “Hello, I’d like to buy a new de­odor­ant please.” The as­sis­tant says, “Cer­tainly sir, ball or aerosol?” And he replies, “Nei­ther, it’s for my armpits.“

All time favourite Top Gear trip? We’d all say Botswana. It was the first time that the pro­gramme spread its wings and the re­sult was as­ton­ish­ing. I saw the baobab trees that have stalked my imag­i­na­tion since I was a child, and it was like putting my hand on the flank of a di­nosaur. I’d like to have been an ar­chi­tect. I’d be a pro­foundly won­der­ful one, ob­vi­ously. A ten­dency to­wards in­tro­spec­tion. I can also be pretty pedan­tic, I get stuck on a theme. I think it’s be­cause I’m so pleased I’ve made my point that I’ll make it again and again. My fam­ily Run­ning over the hill op­po­site where I live My dog My mo­tor­bike Sneez­ing Lake Dis­trict – we live in the coun­try­side very de­lib­er­ately. It’s not ex­actly con­ve­nient when you work in tele­vi­sion be­cause I spend my life get­ting to and from London, but the pay­off is that I can wake up on a Sun­day morn­ing here and pile away round the hills. Once I’m home, it takes a lot to prise me away. So it doesn’t mat­ter what the party is in London, I’m not in­ter­ested.

We do usu­ally man­age Sun­day lunch, nine times out of 10, and I’m a bit blokey about that. None of the girls are par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested as they’re prob­a­bly so busy with their sched­ules – Izzy and Wil­low both play hockey very keenly so in­evitably many week­ends are spent act­ing as taxi driv­ers. We’re very keen to support the girls in all their in­ter­ests so even though we don’t know any­thing about hockey, we go and stand on the side­lines and cheer loudly, as is our job.

Our house is pretty hec­tic. As well as Bleaberry we have six other dogs, six cats, an un­known num­ber of horses (my wife hides them from me), a don­key called Rosie whom I adore, a hand­ful of sheep, a pea­cock, a mil­lion ducks and chick­ens of as­sorted va­ri­eties and a pond stocked with carp. Wil­low and I got fish­ing rods for Christ­mas last year so once we’ve cleared the weed off the pond, we’re plan­ning to float my lit­tle plas­tic boat out and have a go at catch­ing them.

The house it­self is lit­tered with hockey sticks, bags, hair­bands and brushes, as is our car. I bought a nice Land Rover Dis­cov­ery think­ing it would be our posh fam­ily car and we’d keep it clean and tidy, but it’s dis­gust­ing. I tend to run around in a Porsche and I’ve got lots of strate­gic way to com­pete. To gain the most vic­tory points you’ll need to build up the re­sources to run a good scrip­to­rium and keep on good terms with the bishop who can as­sist you in your quest.

8+; John Lewis) 45 min­utes;

2-5 (£40, Learn­ing to play this strat­egy game is pos­si­ble in a mat­ter of min­utes, but mas­ter­ing the tac­tics is an on­go­ing evo­lu­tion. You’re tak­ing a train jour­ney across 1900s Europe in this follow-up to the best­selling 2004 global ver­sion of the game, plot­ting routes be­tween the great ci­ties. Tun­nels and fer­ries add fur­ther twists to the game­play, which ap­peals across about the widest de­mo­graphic of any of the games on this list. Fam­ily dab­blers to ex­pe­ri­enced gamers all con­cur: this is a mod­ern clas­sic.

10 min­utes; 2-8 (£9.99, Ama­zon)

Hang­ing out: Richard Ham­mond likes to tin­ker with his many mo­tor­cy­cles

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