7 reasons to celebrate Countryfile as it turns 30

Countryfile has been a Sunday staple for 30 years and, if its impressive ratings are anything to go by, is still as loved as ever. With the help of the show's presenters, Georgia Humphreys takes a look at what makes it such a long-running success.
Countryfile. Pictured: (L-R) Joe Crowley, Charlotte Smith, Steve Brown, Sean Fletcher, John Craven, Anita Rani, Tom Heap, Matt Baker, Helen Skelton, Margherita Taylor, Ellie Harrison and Adam HensonCountryfile. Pictured: (L-R) Joe Crowley, Charlotte Smith, Steve Brown, Sean Fletcher, John Craven, Anita Rani, Tom Heap, Matt Baker, Helen Skelton, Margherita Taylor, Ellie Harrison and Adam Henson
Countryfile. Pictured: (L-R) Joe Crowley, Charlotte Smith, Steve Brown, Sean Fletcher, John Craven, Anita Rani, Tom Heap, Matt Baker, Helen Skelton, Margherita Taylor, Ellie Harrison and Adam Henson

Few traditions are more delightfully British than cosying up on a Sunday evening to watch Countryfile.

The BBC One series has been delving into a variety of stories from the heart of the UK's stunning countryside for three decades now - shedding light on rural, agricultural and environmental issues.

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And to celebrate its 30th anniversary this month, a special episode from the Lake District will treat viewers to archive footage, behind-the-scenes tales and plenty of reminiscing from the presenters - including Countryfile legend John Craven - as they share their favourite memories from the show.

But first, we take a look at the reasons why millions of people continue to tune in each week.


Bradford-born Anita Rani, 40, has been part of the Countryfile team since 2015.

Of the show's ongoing appeal, she says: "I think people want to watch non-cynical telly. They like the idea of disappearing into something that makes them feel good."

Then, there's the fact it's ideal family viewing.

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"There's not that many programmes that are cross-generational, that you can sit in front of with an eight-year-old and an 80-year-old," she notes.

"I think it's the classic BBC One show," agrees Norfolk-born presenter Joe Crowley. "In that it's something for everyone."


Perhaps an element of why the show is so quintessentially British is the conditions the presenters film in - it's often raining. A lot.

Turning to Rani, Crowley, 36, says: "I remember being with you, on the side of a Scottish mountain, and we had a two-day shoot and the whole two days were sodden.

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"That's why Countryfile is very real. It's a programme that goes out every week, so you can't just wait for a nice weather window in two weeks' time."

"But we laughed!" Rani adds. "And someone said, 'Well, if you can laugh in these conditions, you know you're doing the right job!'"


Radio 4's Charlotte Smith, 53, has been working on Countryfile for 20 years on and off, and is clearly still amazed by the places the show takes her to.

"I was so excited to go to Shetland," the broadcaster, who was born in Leicestershire, says with a grin. "We weren't doing anything on the puffins but we went off to see them before dinner, just because we could - that's my job! It's fantastic."

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Each of the presenters have their personal favourite places, whether it's Northumberland, Dartmoor or the Gower peninsula.

For Panorama reporter Tom Heap, filming Countryfile has opened his eyes to the breadth and variety of the British countryside.

"Even within areas that are quite close to London, there are incredible valleys and spots and peaks that are really, really beautiful," remarks the 52-year-old.

"You don't have to go to the big dramatic places, and that's one thing that Countryfile shows the audience."


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Thanks to the show's strong news focus, the presenters tackle some really important issues.

"I've looked at domestic violence, we've looked at people taking their own life," Smith recalls.

And sometimes, the topics covered - such as grouse shooting - divide opinions amongst viewers.

"Anything people feel really strongly about is controversial," suggests Crowley, who also works on The One Show.

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"And if you go on the Countryfile Twitter hashtag, you'll see people coming from both sides. You can't please everybody, and we have it really tough to find that middle line.

"Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong, but the key thing is we are always thinking about how to make it fair, how to make it balanced."


The team are discussing segments they've filmed which have really stayed with them.

Rani recalls visiting a farm in Pembrokeshire with a charity run by author Michael Morpurgo, that aims to get kids from cities and urban areas immersed in nature.

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"Some kids genuinely have never set foot in the countryside," says the TV and radio personality. "I feel quite emotional about it, when you really think how sad that is."

Of visiting the farm, she says: "You just see these children light up, and some children that aren't academic, who don't necessarily do that great in school, flourish."


Sean Fletcher, 44, who people will also recognise from ITV's Good Morning Britain, shares how his role on Countryfile has changed his own life.

"My son has been quite ill over the last three to four years with OCD," confides the host, who was born in New York but raised in the UK. "He was hospitalised for six months, missed school for a year.

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"I did a story with a group of kids - they were getting stuck in and creating a nature reserve, and I could see how important it was to them and how great it was for them, so from then on I tried to get my son out [into nature]."

As someone who has been open about suffering from seasonal affective disorder, Ellie Harrison, 40, has found her nine years of presenting Countryfile has been the perfect antidote.

"It seems a bit counter-intuitive as being outdoors in winter is quite tough," admits the Gloucester-born star, who started her career in children's TV.

"But being in nature forces me into an environment where I'm connected to the trees and the earth, and the broader picture of nature."


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Bog snorkelling, shipwreck diving, abseiling off cliffs - the presenters get to do some fun adrenaline-filled activities.

However, it's the human interest stories which have been Harrison's favourite.

"We interviewed a family whose son had been killed in the November in Afghanistan - we interviewed them in the February and so they were in the rawest state of grief. They were very generous in that they spoke to us very candidly and brought a scrapbook about Nick."

She continues passionately: "It was devastating, but it was really important to share their story, and make the connection with planting a tree that day - it was made out of willow because he loved cricket.

"It just felt like a really honest moment of humanity."

The Countryfile 30th Anniversary Special airs on BBC One on Sunday, July 22. Countryfile Live is also taking place from August 2-5 at Blenheim Palace.