Telling the ‘tails’ of farmers and their lives

This Week on the Farm; (Channel 5, 8pm)

Helen Skelton goes down of the farm in this new show
Helen Skelton goes down of the farm in this new show

It’s no secret that if you want a successful career presenting prime time TV shows, you must first hone your skills in children’s TV.

It worked for the likes of Ant and Dec, current kings of light entertainment. Would they be quite so slick if they hadn’t put all those years in on Byker Grove and CD:UK? Perhaps not.

And while former collaborator Holly Willoughby may be a queen of ITV, Helen Skelton has certainly earned her place as one of the small screen’s most valuable regulars.

If you want proof, don’t miss this new series in which she co-hosts with Jules Hudson. It’s a simple enough format in which farmers document their lives.

The inaugural episode comes from Cannon Hall Farm in South Yorkshire. Despite being busy looking after lots of newborn animals, the Nicholson brothers find the time to put Ted the Highland cow in an online country show.

Also on the farm, vet Matt has to attend to a lamb with a broken leg; it’s a battle of the wills between Dave and Arnie the ram at shearing time, and the guys build a new home for their latest breed.

Meanwhile, in Ms Skelton’s home city of Carlisle, a herd of cattle are let loose on the Cumbrian salt marshes, and in North Yorkshire, a financial adviser becomes a vegetable picker.

As any Blue Peter fan will tell you, Helen made her debut on the Beeb’s flagship kids’ magazine show in 2008. By then she’d already proved a force to be reckoned with, working in the newsroom at CFM Radio. A stint at Border Television didn’t hurt either, while in 2005 she became one of the Beeb’s youngest presenters when she landed a position on BBC Radio Cumbria’s breakfast show.

Jobs on Newsround and Sportsround helped keep the wolf from the door, and then came the call that would shed light on her often breathtaking talents.

For viewers of a certain age, Blue Peter’s greatest daredevil was John Noakes, but even he might have had a problem running a 78-mile Namibian ultra marathon.

“It was a gruelling experience, but one I’ll never forget,” Helen remarked a few years ago. While that might be enough to make some folks opt for an easy life, Ms Skelton then decided to kayak the length of the River Amazon for Sport Relief. That 2010 feat landed her two Guinness World Records: the longest distance in a kayak in 24 hours by a woman, and the longest solo journey by kayak.

Perhaps little wonder Nigel Evans, an MP for the Ribble Valley, noted “her considerable position as a role model to young people and the magnificent example she sets”.

But that surely was enough for Helen? After all, how do you top that? Well, two years later, she became the first person to reach the south pole by bicycle, raising even more cash for Sport Relief.

Hardly surprising that the job offers have come thick and fast since then, including sublime shows like The Instant Gardener, and perennial favourite Countryfile.

Presenters may come and go, but like many a farmer featured in this show, Helen is outstanding in her field.

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