She’s spent decades on our screens presenting much-loved shows such as Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Animal Park. So, when Kate Humble calls from her home in the Wye Valley, we’re not surprised by her geniality and humour. The self-confessed bumpkin’s affinity with nature started in childhood. Being raised next to a farm meant Kate could revel in all the hallmarks of a rural life and was no stranger to getting her hands dirty. The experience clearly played a huge part in developing her lifelong love affair with the land.
“I learnt early on that the things which mean the most, make us smile and give us the get-up-and-go to jump out of bed in the morning are not things we pay for,” she says. “They’re the things we see, experience and smell.”
Kate, 51, is currently in quarantine after a trip to her cabin in France.
“It’s a four by six box on the edge of a lake, completely off-grid, and I absolutely love it. I while away my days by the water’s edge in the chilly morning mist watching the kingfishers come and catch their breakfast. That, to me, is a priceless experience. You just open your eyes and you’re in the right place at the right time. Nothing beats moments like that.”
We’re keen to find out what else is on her list of simple pleasures.
“It’s deeply middle aged, but I’ve discovered the proper joy of having mud under my fingernails,” reveals Kate, who lives with her husband, television producer Ludo Graham, and three dogs Badger, Bella and Teg.
“However, it also has a lot to do with the irrepressible anxiety I feel about what we’re doing to the planet. I despair for our species. We’re meant to be the cleverest creatures on Earth, yet we’re behaving in a way that’s so opposite to that. If I can quietly try to do things that are softer on our resources and die knowing I haven’t been quite as bad as the sum of our parts, that’d be great.”
It’s no secret that Kate likes a greener way of living, but it’s a lifestyle more of us are tempted by, too.
With coronavirus helping businesses realise employees can work well remotely, many people are considering trading office-packed cities for the country.
“Get out,” instructs Kate. “We have to learn the lessons of this pandemic otherwise it will all have been for nothing. One such lesson is that there is no end to the imaginative ways of working and the freedom it gives people.”
“If you’re feeling stuck in a flat in the city and craving something a little greener, think about what would it take to make you happier. All it requires is some action, be that selling your place and buying another or looking for somewhere different to rent.”
“We think of our decisions, especially big decisions like moving, as being permanent. But they’re not. We can try things. Now more than ever is the perfect time to give things a go because nobody really knows what life is going to look like.”
“Grasp the things you know make you happy and chase them like mad. Stop thinking about the practicalities. You’ve got one shot so if you’re not happy where you are, make the moves needed to change it.”
This river of wisdom never runs dry and it’s clear Kate’s guidance comes from a life that allows her to be herself.
“Age is a great thing because it makes you braver and you care less about what people think, especially when it comes to what you look like. I found my skin a long time ago and I never want to be made into something I’m not,” she asserts.
“Imagine if I turned up to a farmyard fully made up in heels and a gown. I’d look pretty stupid and wouldn’t be able to do my job properly.”
So, what makes Kate feel beautiful? “Being away from the tyranny of mirrors,” she says.
“When I’m in our cabin in France I go completely feral. I love having bare skin, bare feet and hair wet from a wild swim. After that I’ll just sit in the sun, nothing on, with my book and a cup of tea and I feel absolutely gorgeous.”
But how does she cope with adversity?
“I have the world’s most patient, long-suffering husband and the most wonderful friends. They’re hugely important to me,” she says.
“But I also use my time alone to help me through challenges. There is little in life more healing than solitude and the headspace it allows us. Especially solitude in nature.”
Rather like a piping-hot pot of tea on a rainy day, our chat with Kate provides us with warmth and comforting familiarity and is, in essence, exactly what we need.
Kate Humble’s book, A Year of Living Simply: The Joys Of A Life Less Complicated, £20, is out now.