Ben Fogle on his long-standing affection for Dorset
PUBLISHED: 15:15 03 July 2014 | UPDATED: 15:26 03 November 2017
As a second series of ITV's Dorset-based documentary Harbour Lives hits our screens this month, the show's presenter Ben Fogle talks to Andy Greeves about his long-standing affection for the county
Since his rise to fame on the BBC reality show Castaway back in 2000, which saw him marooned on the Scottish island of Taransay with 35 other people, adventurer Ben Fogle’s passion remains travelling and exploring. The next twelve months alone will see him embark on trips to Canada, Namibia, Ecuador, Patagonia and Laos.
But during infrequent breaks in his hectic schedule, Ben is to be found either in Notting Hill - where he lives with wife Marina and children Ludo and Iona - or in his ‘second’ home, Dorset. Ben has a love of the county stretching back to his teens. At 14, the London-born TV presenter came here to be educated.
“I went to Bryanston School in Blandford Forum,” explains Ben. “I can remember the first train journey down from London to Dorset and passing through Salisbury, seeing the magnificent cathedral. I was very homesick for my first year at Bryanston, but learnt to love the county.
“The Jurassic Coast became an outdoor classroom and the Dorset countryside, which is as stunning now as it was then, is perhaps my earliest abiding memory of the county. Wide green fields and lots of cows.”
In presenting roles for the BBC’s Countryfile and Country Tracks and currently on ITV’s Countrywise, Ben has filmed many segments of those programmes in Dorset. But in 2012, he was given the opportunity to shoot an entire series in a county he describes as “breathtakingly beautiful”, when he landed a role presenting ITV’s Harbour Lives.
Set predominantly around Poole Harbour, but also visiting other areas of Dorset, Ben jumped at the chance of being able to work in his beloved Dorset.
“At the time, it was also nice to film something at a leisurely pace, rather than the risk and hardship of the challenges I’ve shot in the past,” smiles Ben. “There was no danger or no hardship this time…the only risk was my tea getting cold while I was out on the open waters.
“When I filmed the first series of Harbour Lives back in 2012, I did anything and everything in the local area from going out with the harbour masters, I cleaned marker buoys in the harbour, went out on fishing boats and visited local vineyards.
I was also introduced to some estate agents who showed me some incredible properties in the Sandbanks area.”
Filming for the second series took place over three weeks in May and June, with Ben writing about his experiences with the Poole-based Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) as part of the programme for The Telegraph.
“In this second series, we’ve really got to know our characters and I again visited people such as the coastguard, the RNLI, border force and local fishermen,” says Ben.
“It’s a lovely series for sure, one I really enjoyed filming. Again, filming Harbour Lives has provided something of a contrast.
“My other adventures this year so far have seen me spend a month in Russia, a fortnight in the North Sea on a fishing trawler, living with a husky dog racer in the Arctic Circle and ten days in a cave in Utah.”
Ever busy, Ben and his wife have recently launched a new snack food brand called Dilly and Wolf and have announced that they are expecting a third child in October.
Family holidays in Dorset will continue but in the future a more permanent move could be on the cards.
“It’s still a place I’d one day like to move to,” says Ben. “I don’t get to visit as much as I’d like, but in addition to the three weeks I spent filming here, I bring the family down a couple of times a year at least.
“I’m such a fan of the coast, so an ideal weekend down in Dorset has to involve the ocean and the sea air. There really is no better feeling than being out on the sea and I’d take in a day on Studland for sure.
“We’d also have to incorporate lunch in Shell Bay and Dinner at the Cruel Sea after a day swimming and sailing. That would all go towards making a pretty perfect weekend!”
• Benjamin Myer Fogle was born 3 November 1973.
• Ben is the son of British actress Julia Foster and Canadian expatriate veterinarian Bruce Fogle.
• Ben was the first to cross the line in the pairs division of the 2005–2006 Atlantic Rowing Race in “Spirit of EDF Energy”, partnered by Olympic rower James Cracknell.