Twenty five years ago this week, my husband Olley and I moved into the home we still live in today. We had lived in London together, firstly in Notting Hill in the flat Olley owned when we met (I moved in by stealth, one bag of belongings at a time so he didn’t realise until the job was done and there I was, living with him!). Then we bought a gorgeous top floor flat with a balcony overlooking Paddington Rec in leafy Maida Vale, a beautiful part of north-west London – we married while we lived there and then moved to a house in Queen’s Park, a little further out on the Bakerloo tube line. Both those properties would be worth a fortune now, given that London prices have risen so much over the last couple of decades, but we made the right decision – I love living in the Buckinghamshire countryside.
I was still working for TVam when we left London, but I’d moved from presenting Good Morning Britain (which meant waking at 3.45am), to the far more civilised AfterNine show, which meant I could lie-in until almost 6am! I get up earlier than that now for the Morning Show on QVC…
The later start meant that we could consider living further from the studios in Camden and as we were ready to think about starting a family, a home with woods and fields nearby seemed a lovely idea.
I’m really enjoying the beautiful countryside around us at the moment as I’m training for two walking marathons. I’ve posted some photos here to show you what I mean – when I get home from work I can enjoy the longer evenings and wonderful weather we’ve been having by getting out for some exercise. I’ve been finding footpaths that I haven’t explored in the two decades I’ve lived here, and I’ve walked the Thames Path from Windsor to Sonning (but not all at once!).
But why two marathons?!
You may be aware that we have a Team QVC in the Moonwalk, an overnight 26.2 mile walk through the streets of London which is taking place on May 16th and raises funds to support people with breast cancer, and also to put towards research into the disease. This should be great fun as we’ll be walking – and talking! – together.
My fellow presenter Jackie Kabler is the energy and inspiration behind it and encouraged us to have a go, and the others doing it are Ali Keenan, Debbie Flint, Abi Cleeve (from UltraSun), plus Dani and Natalie from behind the scenes at QVC. If anyone would like to sponsor us we would be really grateful for every penny. You can find all the information here.
Before that, though, I have another challenge – to walk a marathon along part of the Ridgeway National Path, a route which has been used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers, and which passes through ancient landscapes of downland, secluded valleys and woodland.
I’ll be starting it near Wallingford in Oxfordshire early this Sunday and will hopefully finish in time for a late pub lunch! It’s probably a bit silly to do both of them but I love being out in the fresh air and surrounded by stunning views so I thought I’d go for it. One of my toes is very sore today after striding out on my final long training walk, and my knees can play up a bit as a legacy of all the sport I did when I was younger, but fingers crossed I’ll manage okay.
But I don’t actually have to go out to enjoy the natural world – it all seems to be going on in our garden. We have had a pair of magnificent Red Kites nesting in one of our trees for a few years, and they are still with us. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching them raise their young but felt that perhaps we lost out on some of the usual, smaller garden birds, even though Red Kites don’t normally kill but prefer worms and carrion. However, since I invested in a huge bag of Richard Jackson’s bird food, I’ve realised that all I needed to do was encourage the little ones.
And it is really important to keep feeding throughout the year, especially during the breeding season as wild birds use much more energy in the spring and summer than in even the coldest of winters. Although the squirrels take the lion’s share, so to speak (see a photo of the scene that greeted me this morning when I came downstairs!) we have seen wrens, tits and finches, jays, woodpeckers and nuthatches and even a pair of bright green parakeets.
We’ve always had regular visits from a rather jaunty robin who is brave enough to steal dog food from Barney’s bowl near the back door, and even comes indoors occasionally. This year, though, he’s introduced us to his mate, and I’ve seen him feeding her as part of his courtship. It looks like they’re kissing!
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Well, he obviously impressed her. They’ve been flying in and out of a dwarf conifer right outside the back door and I can look down inside it without disturbing the foliage to see a nest full of chicks. They are tiny with massive gaping yellow beaks. Both Mum and Dad are feeding the nestlings – it’s a full time job! I can sit inside the conservatory end of our kitchen and watch all the activity going on without disturbing them. It’s where I am keeping my QVC plants before planting them out once the risk of frost has gone, and you can see the robin’s tree through the window above the bag of bird food.
I have one mystery, though. A hole has appeared in the lawn quite near the house and there are lots of stones that have been pushed out of it. Not a mole and too big for a mouse. I’m sure squirrels build nests in trees so I’m thinking it must be rats? Ugh! Can anyone confirm from the photo?
I hope you have been able to get out in some sunshine recently too. This is such a lovely time of year, revel in it if you can!
And take care