I was sat on a train hurtling towards The Severn Tunnel and an interview over coffee with Fergus Collins, Editor of Countryfile magazine.
I love the TV program and the magazine, both remind me of idyllic moments in my childhood. Being on the farm during harvest (exhausting work for my dad, great fun for a young child) helping calves to be born and going to market where my dad would sell the cattle. I like to catch up with all that and see how rural England fares now.
So anyway, I knew Fergus had recently moved to Wales and we had arranged to meet to discuss rural business and how I set up Foot Trails.
The scenery on my journey was glorious. I love Wales too. It was great passing by the green fields, the distant and dramatic shapes of the hills and mountains a glorious back drop.
As I arrived at the small rural station and admired the sound of the Welsh language, there was Fergus with a cheery hello. And a “I hope you don’t mind hills. ” Well I don’t, however I think I may have underestimated the hill ! As an English southerner my idea of a hill is definately different. This was surely a mountain! But mountain or not we set off in a tiny car. At points I have to admit I did feel alarmed, despite my tough farm upbringing! Not by Fergus’s driving I should say, which was great, but we seemed to me to be almost vertical at times and in danger of rolling backwards down the hill ! Despite this somehow the tiny car made it up the very steep and huge hill (mountain) that was Fergus’s new home.
Having grown up as a child in rural north Wiltshire and lived for many years in rural south Wiltshire, I understand only to well the lure and wonder of a rural location. Breathtakingly beautiful but as I know from first hand experience, not without its challenges. The first I imagine getting up that mountain in a Welsh winter!
I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss rural issues with someone clearly so passionate about rural England as I am. The range of topics discussed over coffee were many and varied. Yes, Fergus interviewed me about Foot Trails. Why had I started it, what advice would I give to others who wanted to start a rural business, we also discussed many other important rural issues. The challenges of isolation, care for the elderly in rural communities, rural business, aspiration for youth, employment, the benefits to children of growing up in rural places. We put the rural world to rights so to speak….
In fact we were so busy talking that we had to bolt back in the car to return me just in time for my train back to Bath.
You can read more about Fergus’s adventures on his Welsh mountain in his blog at http://www.countryfile.com and more about my advice for anyone wishing to start a rural business in future blogs here.