Ben Fogle on his upcoming tour in Essex and why family always comes first
PUBLISHED: 16:25 10 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:25 10 March 2020
Ben Fogle shot to fame two decades ago as the break out star from BBC reality show Castaway. Here Ben reveals to Denise Marshall why his adventures warrant a national tour, the cost of building a high profile and why family will always come first
If anyone has a spellbinding, and at times terrifying, life story to share, it's bona fide adventurer Ben Fogle. Conquering Everest, braving the Atlantic and completing the Saharan Marathon des Sables are just three of the many escapades to feature in his current 39-date Tales of the Wilderness tour.
He laughs that the gruelling feats are balanced out by more sedate projects, presenting series such as BBC1's Animal Clinic, New Lives in the Wild on Channel 5 and publishing children's books.
'I have always wanted to share my stories,' enthuses Ben. 'As the son of an actress (Julia Fogle), I am familiar with the stage. I grew up watching her in theatres and it seemed a natural transition from the mountains to the stage.
'I have more than 20 years of adventures now under my belt and it felt like the right time to bring them together into one inspiring, uplifting, and sometimes moving evening.'
As a boy Ben would assist his father, veterinarian Dr Bruce Fogle MBE, playing nurse when he was on call in the school holidays. He was unable to pursue that career path due to 'not being academic enough,' so his current work, up close with wildlife, is even more of a blessing.
And Ben certainly counts his blessings. Ben and his wife Marina tragically had a stillborn son Willem in 2014, and have bravely spoken out about the experience to help others. Willem was a key inspiration for climbing Everest, and Ben has too talked of being encouraged by the strength of his mother Julia, well known for starring alongside Michael Caine in Alfie.
In 2017 she was in a coma for two weeks when routine back surgery went wrong. Recovery was long, but with a spirit recognisable in her son she was well enough last year to make a stage comeback dancing at London's Bridge Theatre.
Asked if he has ever feared for his life in his extreme career, Ben replies very matter of factly, 'many times'. While climbing Everest, oxygen supplies failed on two occasions. Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton was forced to terminate the trek, but Ben was able to continue. Yet Everest wasn't the only feat that posed a fatal threat.
'We capsized while rowing the Atlantic, we found ourselves in the middle of a crevasse field in Antarctica and when my oxygen bottle exploded on the top of Everest, to recall just a few. But I have learnt resilience and I always survived. Adventure is often a mindset. It is about controlling your fear,' adds Ben.
How have such experiences changed his views in such a troubled world?
'I think it reminds you to celebrate and smile. Nature always seems so positive and happy. Perhaps that isn't always the case but I find it infectious. Bird song always sounds so happy. I find myself smiling more in the wilderness and then I return to the grumpiness of civilisation.
'It feels like humans are burdened. My mantra has always been to smile more, frown less. Smile and those around you will smile too.'
Tales of the Wilderness calls at Southend's Cliffs Pavilion in March before finishing at Chelsea's Cadogan Hall at the end of the month, and Ben has a little-known affection for the county.
'I love Essex. I spent a great deal of my childhood with my best friend Barnaby who had a house in Clacton. We spent a lot of time on the pier. I have very fond memories of Clacton.
'The lights, the noise and the buzz of the arcades were hugely attractive. I was about 11 and I especially loved the 2p machines where you hoped that by careful figuring out, you would see a pile of 2p coins teeter over the edge.'
Ben's greatest passion is spending time with his wife Marina and their two children, daughter Iona and son Ludo, and he feels indebted to his wife Marina who enables him to spend such large amounts of time out of the country.
'Marina is the real cog in our wheel. She keeps the family on track. She is the real hero. She supports me while propping up the family. Without her support it would be difficult to do what I do. We have been married for 13 years now and we've been through thick and thin.
'Tough and resilient, she has a no-nonsense compassion. My work takes me away from home for more than seven months a year, but we make it work.'
There's no pressure for their children to follow in daddy's unconventional footsteps, however.
'Ludo and Iona are my everything,' declares Ben. 'I think as a parent it's important to let them grow and develop in their own time.
'I don't want to force nature onto them. I want them to slowly fall in love as I did. As a family we travel a great deal.
'It is important for me to introduce them to the beauty of the wilderness. And of course, to always smile.'