Country girl Julia Bradbury is unlikely to swap the great outdoors for an indoor life – even with a young child, finds KATHERINE MACALISTER

Julia Bradbury has just landed the gig of her life – spending the day with Prince Charles at Highgrove interviewing him for Countryfile’s 25th anniversary.

“It was the experience of a lifetime – after all, he is the future king of England and because he was at home he was incredibly relaxed,” she recounts. “We forget that he can’t walk around like everybody else, so he walked to meet us, appearing on the hillside through the mist instead of being dropped off.”

So what was he like? “Warm and charming with a great sense of humour – he really does know his stuff.”

Julia’s millions of viewers and fans would say the same about her, much of Countryfile’s success being down to her cheery, infectious enthusiasm, as she encourages us all to get out there and have a look around.

“Around 6-7 million tune in every week, so we have fairly solid figures,” Julia says proudly. “And I get letters from people saying they have walked up a mountain having never done it before, and that gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.”

Ah yes, the walking, Julia’s other major preoccupation, the subject of numerous TV series, and the reason behind her visit to the Oxford Literary Festival on Sunday, where she will talk about her latest book Wainwright Walks – Coast To Coast, another massive undertaking.

So doesn’t Julia ever wish she’d got a nice safe studio job instead? “I know! My mother’s Greek and I have olive skin and am suited to a mediterranean climate and a life on a beach, and here I am slogging about in horizontal rain with a high wind chill factor, or stapled to the side of a cliff,” she laughs.

“It means that whenever I go away on location I have to take so many bags to prepare for every weather eventuality because we film Countryfile on Thursdays and Fridays and it might be the North East one day and South Devon the next, so we live out of a suitcase. Yes, a bit of make up and some high heels sometimes would be nice,” she grins. “But it keeps things interesting and I feel privileged to do this job.”

And yet the outdoor girl-next door image is the niche Julia has carved out for herself. “Not in a vehemently ambitious way,” she says defensively, “but it’s hard to have longevity in this industry so you have to be quite tenacious. You can’t plan your TV career but you can work at it, and as my niche has been carved naturally around my genuine passions I think that comes through.

“But as I’ve got older I’ve become more comfortable with my style. Now that I’m over 40 I’m happy with who and what I am and can’t take it personally if I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.”

Still hugely in demand, the 42-year-old is also filming a new BBC series on our emergency services called Keeping Britain Safe, “Yes, my work and mum quota is already full,” she smiles: “but having a child completely changes everything. I used to be asked to spend six weeks in The Gambia at the drop of a hat and I’d say ‘yes please’, but I don’t do that anymore because I want to be with my son, so I limit myself to two nights away a week.

“That might mean getting up at 4am to get an early flight so I can be home to put him to bed, and when it doesn’t work, the nanny and Zeph come with me, so yes, making it work is vital, as with all working mums.”

Having got the walking bug from her own father, presumably it will now be passed down to Zephyr as well?

“I would hope so, although at the moment we walk to the park to feed the ducks,” she laughs, “But Zeph is already showing all the signs, crawling down the stairs like a mountain climber, always with three points of contact.”

Julia will tell you all about it herself when she comes to Oxford. “There are things I always get asked – like whether I actually do all the walks or get helicoptered in, stuff like that, so I will answer those questions, but I will also talk about how I couldn’t do it without my family.”

Still, a walk in the park after her day with HRH? “Well exciting but intimidating at the same time, because I didn’t go to university. I didn’t really get on with school and as my mum had a strong work ethic I copied her and left school at 16, even though my father went to Cambridge. So it’s too late for me now but I have no regrets.”

And what of the legions of men who will probably turn up on Sunday just to see Julia in the flesh? “All those male viewers who watch me in my Gore-tex. What are they thinking?” she squeals with laughter. “Poor loves... if only they knew.”

Julia Bradbury is appearing at the Oxford Literary Festival on Sunday to discuss her book Wainwright Walks – Coast to Coast, at Corpus Christi College. See