Celebrity Health - Kate Humble

"My outdoor lifestyle keeps me healthy”

TV presenter and writer Kate Humble talks to Liz Parry about running her own smallholding, growing her own food and keeping fit in the great outdoors

Q: Do you like to take a natural approach to your own health and wellbeing?

Kate: Yes, definitely. I think if you eat well and you keep yourself fit then you will give yourself a much better chance of staying healthy. I have quite a physical job and I find that I do better, both mentally and physically, when I am fitter. Also I happen to be one of those rather annoying people who really likes vegetables!

Q: What are your favourite healthy foods?

Kate: I eat a lot of green vegetables and salads and I like fish and chicken, but I don’t eat as much meat as I used to. My husband and I live on a smallholding in the Wye Valley and we raise animals for meat, so I can appreciate the real effort that goes into that. I don’t take meat for granted. I look upon it as a treat, which is what it should be. I’ve always really liked vegetarian food. There are such interesting recipes out there and such interesting ideas around food so it’s quite easy to eat well without always having meat. I cook a lot as I find it therapeutic. I try not to eat any processed foods or ready meals.

Q: Do you grow your own vegetables?

Kate: Yes, up to an extent. Funnily enough we used to grow more vegetables when we had an allotment in London. It was down by the river and we used to grow more vegetables than we could ever eat and we would end up taking them to people instead of bottles of wine at dinner. We stopped getting dinner invitations after that. Our friends would be saying: ‘We’d rather have the wine – not another butternut squash!’ Where we are now it’s a bit higher and a bit more exposed so it’s harder to grow vegetables. We have a fantastic rhubarb patch and we grow tomatoes and courgettes. We also have an aquaponics system which involves growing fish and recycling the nutrient-rich water into soilless vegetable production. The water is cleaned in the process so it can be constantly reused. It’s a very sustainable process. We use it to grow lots of salads and herbs.

Q: It sounds like an idyllic lifestyle. Does it keep you fit and active, this way of life?

Kate: Yes, definitely. I have one of those watches that tells you how many steps you have done in a day and this morning I have done 12,000 [It’s only 9.30am.] I did a 10k run with my dog and then I had to sort out a problem with one of my sheep, so I have already been quite busy. I grew up in the countryside so in a way this is my heritage. I lived in London for 20 years and quite quickly I started to realise that city life wasn’t for me. As a child I climbed trees, I was outside all the time and I built up a very strong immune system. Interestingly, research has shown that children who are brought up around dogs and livestock are much less likely to suffer with asthma. So I think that leading an outdoor lifestyle is definitely beneficial to our health.

Q: You are well known for being a dog lover. Do you think that having a pet in your life is good for your health?

Kate: I have just written a book on this subject, called Friend for Life, which looks at the relationship between humans and dogs. I think having a pet like a dog can be hugely therapeutic. They have a real calming influence and can help to reduce stress and anxiety. Studies have also shown that dog owners have a reduced risk of heart disease. We have seen on our own farm the tremendous connection that children can experience with animals. We have kids come to visit the farm and I remember one little autistic boy said to me: ‘Animals talk to my soul’.

Q: Do you enjoy running your own farm?

Kate: Well actually it’s a tenanted farm run by a couple of proper farmers called Tim and Sarah Stephens – unlike my husband and I who are just pretend farmers! The farm is the headquarters for our business and our aim is to support other rural businesses. We hold smallholding and animal husbandry courses as well as courses where you can learn rural skills like hedge laying, dry stone walling and how to grow an edible garden.

Q: You’re obviously very passionate about outdoor living. Do you think this is the key to encouraging children to be more active and healthy?

Kate: Absolutely. When I was a kid I spent every waking moment outside climbing trees and falling off my bike. I did spend quite a lot of time in A&E being stitched up but that’s all part and parcel of being a kid. I think anyone who hasn’t got scars on their knees clearly hasn’t had a proper childhood! I do think one of the big problems contributing to child obesity is too much unhealthy food and not enough time spent outside just mucking about.

Q: Your outdoor festival is now in its second year. Tell us a bit about that.

Kate: It’s called the Big Day Out and it takes place at the beginning of July. It’s a family-friendly celebration of being outdoors. There will be live music and comedy, outdoor cookery demos and activities like foraging for food and willow weaving. There will be the Farm Olympics with events such as welly wanging and hay bale throwing. There will be plenty for kids to do too, from cookery to circus skills and bushcraft. We want to encourage people of all ages that doing stuff outside is much more fun than doing stuff inside!

Kate Humble's new book, Friend For Life is available now. To find out more about the farm and courses visit www.humblebynature.com

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