It’s now 15 years since Ben Fogle first found fame on the BBC reality show Castaway. He’s since become one of Britain’s highest-profile adventurers, rarely straying far from an ocean, desert or mountain. We caught up with him for an exclusive chat about the places and people that have left him with the most enduring impressions.
Growing up, what do you remember about your first great outdoor experience?
I grew up in central London without a garden, but spent my long summer holidays in rural Canada at my late grandfather’s hand-built wooden cottage on a lake. My memories were of bears, canoes, beavers, fishing and camping.
Closer to home, what makes the UK an exciting place to explore?
The UK has it all. I love the British Isles. We have so much in such a relatively small area. Exmoor is hauntingly beautiful, as are the Yorkshire Dales. And in Scotland, the Outer Hebrides is still one of my favourite places in the world – it’s great for diving too.
You’ve raced across Antarctica, the Sahara and the Atlantic Ocean. Which was hardest?
I’d have to say the Atlantic – the ocean can be an unforgiving place. I’ve spent a great deal of my life on the ocean and I have learnt to respect it as much as I love it.
New Lives In The Wild is on screens at the moment. What was the highlight?
I loved filming with Swisswoman Barbara in the Australian outback. She was undoubtedly the toughest wildman or wildwoman I have encountered. She lives alone in one of the least hospitable places on Earth.
Do the people you encounter in these remote locations have much in common?
They have all followed their dream. They have all gone in search of a simpler life, often severing their ties to the grid. They all share a universal happiness.
You’ve also been working on a fishing series. What advice would you give to people who have never tried it?
Fishing is so simple. You don’t need all the high-tech gear we see advertised. All you need is a rod, a line and some ingenuity. I have been amazed at the simple rig it takes to catch mighty fish.
What’s been your most memorable wildlife experience?
Worldwide, I’d say diving with wild Nile Crocodiles in Botswana, but closer to home it would have to be aboard a fishing trawler on the North Sea. (In 2014 Ben spent a full week on a 24-metre trawler, hauling thousands of haddock and cod from the ocean.)
Finally, who would be your ideal walking mate for a summer hiking expedition?
Someone who brings a combination of good company and practicality. Ideally my wife but she’s not the biggest fan of hiking and camping. Can I take Sir Ranulph Fiennes?
You can watch Ben Fogle now on New Lives in The Wild on Demand5. Take a look at him talking about it here!