Denise Van Outen on why Essex will always be home
PUBLISHED: 13:04 30 October 2017 | UPDATED: 16:20 23 February 2018
Essex girl Denise Van Outen has matured to become more passionate about playing golf than late-night parties, but there's still no place like the home county of Essex, where she grew up and plans to return to soon
While television star Denise Van Outen is best known for one of the most successful presenting partnerships of the 1990s, alongside Johnny Vaughan on The Big Breakfast, and her more recent stints on EastEnders and Loose Women, life for the 43-year-old has taken a mature turn.
The famous former party girl now likes nothing more than fitting her two new outdoor passions of golf and gardening around her ever-demanding career.
Currently residing in Kent with her seven-year-old daughter Betsy and stockbroker partner of two years, Eddie Boxshall, Denise reveals exclusively how age and motherhood have taught her the importance of a healthy work/life balance, and why she’s eager to settle back in Essex for good.
‘I’ve only played golf for a couple of years, but luckily my boyfriend Eddie plays too,’ explains Denise, fully rested following a short Spanish getaway. ‘We were set up on a blind date and I’d just started having lessons. My friends and I have hit an age where we all want a bit of a hobby. I needed something to do socially during the day, as you can’t do the staying out clubbing all night anymore!’
A real treat for Denise is to combine time on the greens with a spa break to completely switch off and maximise bonding time with Betsy.
‘We took her away to Dublin in August to the Portmarnock Hotel on the coast. It was so much fun,’ enthuses the devoted mum.
‘Eddie and I had been to Ronan Keating’s charity golf event in Kildare in July, and I was saying that I love Ireland so much. Then Betsy started saying, “I want to go to Ireland!” So, while we were there we booked two nights and three days for her to come with us. We used the pool and then got our nails done together.’
While Denise concentrates on reducing her golfing handicap of 36, living off the land is currently taking a back seat.
‘They call Kent the Garden of England, so there’s a lot to live up to,’ she smiles. ‘I really wanted to improve my game this summer. Gardening, golf, who would have thought?’
While Denise’s job requires frequent jet setting, with this year’s work trips including time in the Bahamas for a new ITV project and casting for a female led romantic comedy she has written, she stresses that scheduling time out from her fast-paced lifestyle is the key to her wellbeing.
‘People know I’m your typical career woman,’ she continues. ‘And on a personal level I’m a single parent essentially. I’m constantly busy juggling motherhood and work. Not everyone can do the long holiday, so I’m a massive fan of the mini-break. You have to do that otherwise you burn out. It’s something I’ve had to adjust to and I’ve learned not to feel guilty about it.’
Denise has been one of very few celebrities to candidly talk about the reality of new parenthood and feels this is one of the reasons she is particularly suited to her role as ambassador for Europe’s leading spa agency, Spabreaks.com.
‘It’s not really a job,’ she laughs. ‘But it’s lovely because I’m all about taking time for yourself. And I take my hat off to any mum. One of my friends recently had a baby and said, “Den, you used to say to me all the time, ‘brace yourself, everything changes’ and I had no idea. I come to work now for a break.”
‘You can never prepare yourself. It’s such hard work and I did feel like I was always moaning. I felt terrible because other people would say everything was fantastic.
‘Sometimes, when I hadn’t slept, I used to just sit in my house, put my head in my hands and cry because I was so tired. That’s what you don’t read. I do sometimes miss the newborn stage, but then I’m reminded of the chaos when I see my friends.’
There’s little doubt Denise seems at her most content having found her soulmate in Eddie. Admirably he gets on comfortably with her ex-husband, Holby City actor Lee Mead, but there is one step that would make life really fall into place. After much reflection, Denise has decided there’s no place like home!
‘Betsy spends every other weekend with her dad in Southend, she’s been going to that beach and Leigh on Sea since she was a baby, and my family are still all there. Plus, Eddie’s family are in Chelmsford,’ she smiles, as the reasons for a return to her roots come thick and fast.
With many fond memories, there is also no shortage of favourite Essex hotspots for down time.
‘For walking, the village of Finchingfield is very pretty. And Eddie and I like the Galvin Green Man pub in Great Waltham for eating out, as well as Smith’s in Ongar. My nan had a caravan when I was little, so she moved around a lot, going to Canvey Island in the school holidays and we loved Maldon as kids.
‘When I was a teenager, Lakeside had only just opened. It was quite a big thing and I still like going there to meet my mum. Plus, I always fly from London Southend Airport now.’
After whisking Betsy away for a half-term October break, Denise will resume training for a charity trek in the Himalayas come November, in aid of Brain Tumour Research. Then the excitement of house-hunting in Essex will commence, bringing her loved ones back around the corner.
‘There’s no rush, but we will definitely start looking over the next year,’ Denise says with a broad smile. ‘I said to Betsy recently, ‘Mummy and Daddy are both from Essex so do you think you are an Essex girl or a Kent girl? She replied, “Really mummy, I think I’m more Essex”.’
Find out more
For more information on getting away from it all, visit www.spabreaks.com/categories/golf-and-spa or call the Spabreaks.com advisors on 0800 043 6600