Countryfile has been a staple of Sunday night viewing for many years. And now the team get the full Universal Studios treatment for a new DVD, celebrating the British seasons. We caught up with one of the show’s star presenters, Adam Henson, to talk about the seasons and some of his own digging and swigging highlights.
Hello Adam. Tell us about this new Countryfile DVD…
Ellie Harrison, John craven, myself, Matt Baker, and Helen Skelton – we’re all going round the British Isles really celebrating the beautiful views, the wildlife and the changing seasons of the countryside. There’s new footage from all of us filming, with some of the highlights of previous Countryfiles they’ve reedited and put together, and also there’s a little package at the end showing how we made it and some interesting glimpses behind the scenes.
Have you got a particular favourite season or time of year?
Spring would be my favourite season, when you see the buds of new leaves appearing on the trees and the grass growing. The ewes are giving birth at that time of year so we’re lambing, and you might come out of a dark winter into a glorious spring, and that brings warmth to my heart.
So do you ever have a touch of seasonal affective disorder, when you feel a little low through the winter?
I think when you’re working outdoors and you get a long, dull, grey day, and if it’s raining, it can be fairly miserable. But I have to say that if you get a clear, crisp day with frost on the ground then the Cotswolds, where I live, can be absolutely stunning. So I think every season has its highs as well as some of its lows, but I do like to leave winter behind and think about the spring and the summer.
On your travels filming Countryfile you often present unusual crops that wouldn’t normally get much coverage. Are there any that you think might catch on with the wider public?
Yes, there are ugly vegetables, like celeriac, and things like artichokes that do seem to be getting more popular. It’s interesting to talk about new crops. I wasn’t filming, but I visited a farm down in Somerset where they planted about 400 acres of grapes and will be hoping to produce sparkling wine. It’ll be one of the biggest vineyards in Europe and that’s in the UK, so that’s pretty amazing. And I was at a farm a couple of summers ago where they were trying to grow cranberries, which is something you think of coming from the States, but they were growing cranberries in the UK.
We’ve noticed that you and the team are often out and about tasting a lot of nice looking food and booze. Have you got any favourites that you’ve sampled on your travels?
Well, giving a plug to my own beer, we grow maris otter malting barley which is a specialist malt for ales. We work with Butcombe Brewery and they produce a beer called Rare Breed which is a delicious, fresh, zesty beer. A lot of people now are trying to match beer with food rather than wine and we’ve got some really good micro breweries across the country… but I strongly recommend anybody that’s out west gives Rare Breed a try when they get a chance.
Does the eating and drinking carry on when the cameras stop rolling?
When we do come together we have a great time. In the DVD there’s part of our 25th anniversary that we had on the farm – we had a big celebration. We’ll have a few beers and laugh after the filming is finished but on the whole most of the presenters are doing their reports from different corners of the country and we don’t get to meet very often. So although I’ve been working on the programme alongside Matt Baker since 2009 I’ve probably only met him a dozen times
Do you have any other collaborations in the pipeline?
We work with a company DLF who are one of Europe’s largest grass seed producers and they also provide conservation mixes for farms. So on the farm at home we have quite large areas of pollen and nectar mixes for bees and butterflies and also crops producing seeds to feed the birds during the winter months, to get them through the hungry gap. We’ve taken those and put them in a pot so that people can grow their own bird seed mixes or bees and butterflies mixes in their gardens.
You seem very confident of lifting all sorts of animals up in the air. Have you ever come a cropper handling animals?
Not really. Because I’ve grown up with them I can generally tell their mood and judge wether I should or shouldn’t be handling them, or getting too close if a bull is looking angry or a cow is looking protective of her calves. I tend to air on the side of caution. I’ve never really had any accidents, although farms are quite dangerous places and we do need to be careful but, no, thankfully I’ve been OK.
And finally, what do you think is the enduring appeal of the show?
I think because it’s a magazine show and there’s a little bit of something in there for everybody. And it’s bringing the amazing British countryside to peoples living rooms on a Sunday night, which is a good time slot, and it’s great quality real life TV. You know it isn’t a soap story, a makeover show or a reality show – it’s proper stuff going on and a lot of people like that.
Countryfile: A Celebration of the Seasons is available on DVD. You can watch the trailer here