Thursday, 9 June 2011

Julia Bradbury - Queen of the Castle

"Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy" - Thich Nhat Hanh

TV PERSONALITY Julia Bradbury takes time out from filming BBC’s  Countryfile programme at Chirk Castle to talk to chief reporter David Lawson about what she thinks makes the area so special and why  her  next project is her greatest  challenge yet.

“I FEEL like I should apologise to people when I meet  them,” confesses Julia Bradbury, the smiling face of BBC’s Countryfile and a whole raft  of walking programmes  that  have caught the public’s imagination.
“I’ve suddenly  become one of those people who is  on everyone’s  TVs  all the time,”she laughs, “People are going to start  complaining of Julia Bradbury overload!”
With a little friendly  persuasion, the small crowd of Friday  afternoon visitors  gathered around Chirk Castle’s main gate fall quiet  as  Julia steps  out into the sunshine, repeating an interview  with a National Trust  spokeswoman as her film crew capture it from yet another angle.

The team have been in the area filming a piece for  the 40th anniversary  of Offa’s  Dyke Path, talking to local experts about its ancient woodland and investigating Chirk’s  imposing castle. With her piece to camera finished, Julia  and I head for a nearby bench for a chat while her crew get set up for their next shot.
“We seem to be on some kind of rota at  the moment  that  says  we have to come up to this area at least once every three weeks,”smiles  Julia, “It’s  great, I absolutely  love it  here – I just  wish it wasn’t such a long drive back.”

The last  year  alone has  seen Julia return repeatedly  to the region, from Canal Walks  alongside Chirk’s Llangollen Canal to recording nature pieces  from Lake Vyrnwy’s  RSPB reserve, but  having visited virtually every  part  of the world as  a travel presenter and having now walked across a great  many  of them, I’m curious  to know  what  aspect  of Chirk, Oswestry and our  borderland region she feels sets it apart:
“It’s  the people,”says  Julia without hesitation, “The people here always seem to me to be really feisty, and that’s always appealed to me. I’m a feisty girl myself after all.”
She might  be feisty, but  she’s  also incredibly  popular,her  arrival on Countryfile coinciding with a huge ratings  surge, turning the show  from a sleepy  Sunday  morning affair  into a surprise primetime hit.

As  we continue to chat, school children pouring onto a coach next  to us begin to recognise her, smiling and waving from inside their  bus, with Julia waving and calling back to them. It’s this same genuine, approachable character  that  has  made her  programmes so popular and watchable, yet after presenting so many different types of show from Wish You  Were Here through to Wainwright  Walks she says  she is  still unable to pick out her own favourite.
“Oh, it  really  is  impossible to say, everything I do is  different  and that’s what  makes  it  work for  me. I’d be useless  in an office,”she admits, “I just couldn’t  handle it, but  doing this  job means  each day  I can be doing something new.”

Even so, she certainly appears to have found her  niche with her  immensely successful walking programmes, something that has given her the opportunity to expand into writing books, her latest Canal Walks featuring local sections of the Llangollen Canal: “I absolutely love that!”she enthuses, “I really  enjoy the writing process and I’ve got a great co-author  who I work with, Claire Jones  – another  good, proper  Welsh girl. We have such fun. It’s  definitely something I want to do more of.”

A combination of a tough work ethic and a quirk of scheduling means  you can currently  spend a whole week
watching nothing but wall-to-wall Bradbury, she jokes, from Country File on BBC 1 and Icelandic Walks on BBCFour, to Canal Walks on BBC 2 and constant  repeats  of Wainwright  Walks  on BBC and Sky. Despite this  however, a schedule of constant filming for Countryfile alongside her work for  various  cancer  charities, means  it  doesn’t  appear  as  though she will be disappearing from our  screens any time soon.

So what’s  next? “Having a baby!”she exclaims, unable to hide her  excitement. Currently  five months  pregnant, 40-year-old Julia admits a medical condition called endometriosis  meant  she had not  been sure she would ever  be able to become pregnant. “There’s the Icelandic Walk programme, some other stuff over  the summer  and lots  I want to do in the future,”she says, “but  for I’m just  really  looking forward to being
a mum. I can’t wait!”