Walking in the Lake District with the girls
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