Julia talks about her most audacious project yet. And the perils of breastfeeding among black bears
Julia Bradbury is best known as the co-presenter of BBC favourite, Countryfile and for her passion for walking. In May, she will be taking part in Planet Earth Live, which has been described as a 'kind of global Springwatch'. She talks to Peter Moore about the challenges that lie ahead.
Tell us more about Planet Earth Live...
Planet Earth Live is the BBC utilising the talent of the Natural History unit to follow particular animals over the month of May. I'll be based in Minnesota, in the North Woods, with black bears. Richard Hammond will be in Kenya with lions and lion cubs. And we’ll be using those two live hubs to update people on a weekly basis, going live three times a week.
We'll also be connecting with other teams around the globe and pulling in with other footage of other animals. As well as the lion cubs and bear cubs, we'll be featuring grey whales, California sea otters and Macaque monkeys.
Why those five animals?
We’ve honed it down to these five so we can have a bit of focus. There were thousands of other animals we could have included but we had to draw a line. We picked these particular animals because we thought they were a good spread geographically and also, their stories at this time of year, are all very compelling.
So it really is like a global Springwatch?
Or global Autumnwatch. But rather than looking live into the nest, we’re looking live into the dens, we’re looking live into the savannahs, into the bush.
Will you be living in Minnesota for the entire month?
Yes, I’m going to be based out there. I’ve already done some filming there. I’ve been to Baja in Mexico to meet the grey whales. And I’ve also been to Monterrey to film with the sea otters. But for the whole of May I'll be in Minnesota.
You’re a new mother. Does your son tag along with you?
Zeph (Julia’s son) didn’t come along when I spent ten days doing the pre-production filming with the bears, the whales and the otters. It was a nightmare in terms of time zones. I think we covered 20,000 miles, six cities and four different time zones within the ten-day period. So he definitely wouldn’t have been able to cope with that. I could barely cope with that.
But he’s going to come out with me to Minnesota. As a new mum, the prospect of leaving him for four weeks was just far too great. It's not something I could have done.
So Planet Earth Live will be his first big trip?
No! He’s actually a well-travelled little man. He went to South Africa over the Christmas. But, yes, this will be his first big overseas work trip.
And your first attempt at juggling your TV work with being a mother?
Actually, no. My first attempt at juggling was when I did The Great British Countryside with Hugh Dennis. I started filming that when Zeph was only nine weeks old and I was still breast feeding. So he came on location with me. That was quite a juggling act.
It should be easier in Minnesota, having a home base.
And I’m no longer breast feeding. Expressing milk in the North Woods with black bears around would not have been a great idea!
Walking seems to be a big theme in your work. Have you always had a pair of walking boots on or is it something you’ve fallen into of late?
My dad is responsible for my walking boots. He bought me my first pair when I was about six. He’s a Derbyshire man. He took me out walking across the Derbyshire Hills as soon as I could walk in a fairly co-ordinated manner.
Is that the plan with your son?
Yes. He’s certainly going to have to have a thirst for adventure.
Walking has taken you all over Britain, as well as Iceland, South Africa and Germany. Are there any other places you’d like to go trekking?
Oh gosh! There are millions of places! I haven’t been to Argentina. I’d love to walk and travel there. New Zealand is on the wish-list. There’s a few mountains I’d like to tackle there. That’s a good starting point, but many other parts of the globe.
Do your travels always have to involve a trail?
I do enjoy beach holidays. Because my work life is quite involved and quite busy, it’s not hard for me to have ten days on a beach, reading about five books. That is also fun for me. When you move all the time, as I do, the stillness is quite appealing.
What have been some of your favourite journeys?
Iceland was definitely a favourite. It’s such a strange, weird, wonderful country. I love South Africa. I return to visit my friends and see the country whenever I can. Nicaragua is one of the most exciting places I’ve been. Certainly for wildlife, incredibly rich wildlife. Costa Rica, as well. I’ve been lucky. I’ve travelled quite a lot for my work and I’ve been to a lot of beautiful places.
You’ve done a lot of programs about Britain, like The Great British Countryside with Hugh Dennis. What is it that makes the British countryside so great?
Bill Bryson, a great author who knows a thing or two about travel, hit it on the head when he recognised that we’ve got a great attitude towards our countryside here. We’ve been very lucky in that we’ve protected so much of it. As a nation we have a love affair with the countryside.
Bill Bryson said that if you said to someone in America that you were going for a walk across agricultural farmland in mid America they’d look at you as if you were completely bonkers.
I think that’s what encapsulates what’s great about this country and our countryside. We have a great variety of landscapes. But more importantly, we have a great love and passionate respect for it.
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