He is a familiar face on our TV screens and here, Jules Hudson speaks to Emily Ashworth about his love of the Great British Countryside.
You name it, he has probably presented it. Escape to The Country, Countryfile and more recently, This Week on the Farm – when it comes to the countryside, Jules Hudson is always right in the thick of it. Rural affairs, says Jules, have always been of interest to him, but his passion probably began when he went to university in West Wales and ‘fell in love with the mountains’.
“My sister had a great passion for horses and instilled that in me, so I spent a great deal of time outside riding and was fortunate enough to get my own horse aged 11. The countryside is my natural home,” says Jules.
“For me, I’m very fortunate that I get to share what I do with people.”
And although he has spent many years working and living in this environment, like many others, lockdown only strengthened his affinity with the British countryside.
“The day before lockdown, driving back home through the landscape and I remember looking across the borders thinking, you would never know anything was wrong,” says Jules. “Through the pandemic, the great outdoors kept [people] going. “It provided a moment of steadiness.”
His latest show, Channel Five’s This Week on the Farm, has seen him present alongside fellow farming favourite Helen Skelton, on Cannon Hall Farm in South Yorkshire.
The well-received programme gave an insight to the highs and lows of days on-farm, but it has shown, he says, just how adaptable farmers and food producers are given the unstable climate since the pandemic.
“We’ve covered various stories on producers who have suddenly found their market has disappeared, particularly those who sell into restaurants and have had to rethink how they market their products,” he says.
“For some, it has provided a real opportunity to diversify and perhaps make them stronger for the future.”
There is certainly a renewed interest in rural life, with clear uptake in property and staycations, but just what is it about the British countryside that people love?
“We have a peculiar affinity with the countryside,” says Jules. “The aspiration to live in the countryside is something we have long championed and of course now, with people able to re-evaluate how they work and where they work, that is propelling an astonishing interest in rural property.
“Interestingly, it’s pushing people out into rural communities which they may have once overlooked because of commuting. The thing now is that young people hopefully won’t feel they have to chuck life away in an area they have lived and grown up in. They can go and establish their career somewhere else and come back more quickly than the previous generation might have done.
“The joy of rural life is that it is what you make of it. If you want to be super involved you can be, if you want to remain on the periphery, then you can and still feel supported.”
Jules has now been on Escape to the Country for 14 years, still revelling at the chances to travel across the country and explore what the UK’s countryside has to offer, from people to the landscapes and the communities.
He says: “One of the great joys of my professional life is that I can work across all the regions in the UK. There is a great unity to the rural network in this country, top to bottom, and there’s a shared community about rural life that is very powerful. There is a sense that we are part of a much broader community. Having the chance to champion that, that’s a joy.
“The countryside has always been the great provider: food, fuel, raw materials and now an improved sense of mental health and well-being and it’s a resource we need to take care of.”