Gabrielle Fagan catches up with the adventurer ahead of his visit to Lighthouse, Poole this month, to discover why the great outdoors is more important than school, when it comes to parenting his kids


TV presenter Ben Fogle travels the world for his adventures and physical challenges, but when he gets home, he's not looking for a bit of peace and quiet. Instead, he wants his children to go wild.

"I know the virtues of travel, the outdoors and animals," says the TV presenter of Channel 5's series New Lives In The Wild, who has two children, Ludo, 10, and Iona, eight, with his wife Marina.

"Adventure is what has made me and I want them to love it, and the wilderness too. I don't want them to see it as a dangerous, frightening place," says the 45-year-old who's determined to pass on the skills for coping in a natural, outdoor environment to the youngsters, and get them to share his love of adventure.

"For me, the most important place to learn is not the classroom, but the outdoors and nature. If they're open to life, new experiences, new people and happy in the world, and have a spirit of adventure, that to me is more important than academic achievements," explains Fogle "We've been teaching them basic bush craft skills - like foraging for food, making a fire and how to put it out safely - since they were young. They've had whittling knives for working with wood for a long time. Of course, they get cuts and bruises, get stung by bees, or whatever but that's all about experiencing and learning."

Fogle, who found fame in 2000 living on the uninhabited Outer Hebridean island of Taransay, for the BBC reality show Castaway, has gone on to conquer an impressive list of challenges, including reaching the summit of Everest, trekking the Sahara, crossing the Antarctic, and rowing across the Atlantic.

"I've learnt so much from the things I've done and want the children to learn about life and how to live it. Those experiences don't have to be in far-flung spots, we go out a lot in the British countryside as well, it's all about exploring," he enthuses.

"I like to think I'm as good a dad as I can be. I'm hands-on, quite fun, and never lose my temper. It's acknowledged there's an increase in 'helicopter' parenting these days, with people hovering over their children and almost trying to control them and wrap them in cotton wool.

"I don't believe in that. We need to loosen our grip, let them grow, adapt and learn. I encourage our kids to get outdoors, get muddy, wet, eat yucky food, and mess around. They need more of that sort of stuff to grow as individuals."

There'll be plenty of that for the when the family celebrate the 20th anniversary of Castaway by going away to an island where they will have a complete break from technology.

"We won't go for a whole year, but it will be a good length of time for a proper break."

Fogle admits he "can't wait" for the adventure, particularly as he misses his wife and children so much when he's working abroad.

"The excitement and anticipation of being reunited with them again keeps me going during the long absences. I think about them all the time and I took their favourite cuddly toys with me when I climbed Everest in May 2018.

"A lot of parents now work very long hours and while some may be around more than me, work can make it hard for them to be 'present', even when they're at home. I make sure, when I'm home, I'm with the children all the time. I walk them to school, pick them up, take them to their friends and sports fixtures, and take them out as much as I can.

"I've realised it can be hard for Marina when I return from a trip, because I want to have fun with the kids and entertain them, but she's the one who's had weeks making sure they do the right things and have a routine.

"We make sure she instigates fun things as well as me when I'm around, so there's a balance in the parenting."

Ben Fogle has teamed up with Sanofi Pasteur to encourage holiday-goers to seek travel health advice from a healthcare professional before going abroad. For further information on travel health, visit Ben Fogle: Tales from the Wilderness, is at Lighthouse, Poole, on March 26.