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Chat with Ben Fogle!

Where do we start? Ben Fogle – author, columnist, television presenter, adventurer and supporter 
of countless charities…

…But did you know he also studied at Portsmouth uni and has an Honorary Doctorate! So what exactly do you have to do, to receive an honorary doctorate? Have half your face chewed off by a flesh eating disease? Row across the atlantic? Walk to the south pole? Run countless marathons – across the Sahara!? Well, Ben’s been a busy boy since his days in Pompey and Mayhem! is here to find out more!

Your most recent achievement was a swim across the San Fransisco bay. What was this all about?
I’m in the midst of filming a new series for the BBC and Lonely Planet called Ben’s Year of Adventures which sees me travelling the world in search of adventure. I’ve solo skydived in Australia, taken part in a 24hr mountain bike race in Moab and scuba dived between the tectonic plates of Europe and North America to name just a few.

You studied here at Portsmouth University and the Uni of Costa Rica, plus while at uni you enrolled as a Midshipman in the Royal Naval Reserve, serving as an officer on HMS Blazer! Can you connect the dots for us?
I read Latin American Studies at Portsmouth and the four year degree included a year away in Costa Rica. During my three years in Pompey I joined the University Royal Naval Unit in which I became a Midshipman aboard HMS Blazer. I spent my weeks in Park building by the Guildhall and my weekends and holidays aboard HMS Blazer.

What made you come to Portsmouth and how have you integrated your Latin American Studies into what you’re doing now?
I liked the idea of being by the sea and Portsmouth seemed as good a place as any. My degree has been useful over the years, particularly my Spanish language.

Tell us about your experiences here and what were your favourite haunts?
I loved my time in Pompey. I don’t know how many of my old haunts still exist but I spent time in The Dolphin in Old Portsmouth and the Wine Vaults were always popular. I loved wondering around Southsea and Old Portsmouth to watch all the shipping pass by.

You found fame by traveling from one end of the country to the other (Portsmouth to Scottish island, Taransay). Tell us about the reality TV show Castaway 2000. How did you end up being part of this?
It was soon after I had graduated and I saw an article about the BBC’s plans for a pioneering social experiment to celebrate the millenium. I thought it sounded like a fun idea and the rest as they say is history.

How did you go from this to the glitz of being a TV presenter on the BBC?
I was lucky that the BBC contacted me soon after I left the island and asked if I’d like to present a couple of shows for them. It started with Animal Park, Countryfile and Holiday.

What’s been your favourite programme to be part of and why? Have you got any behind the scenes stories?
To be honest I’ve loved them all. They’ve all been so unique. I particularly liked filming with Prince William and Harry in Botswana last year for my programme Prince William’s Africa.

Several years back you went to the Sahara to run the notorious Sand Marathon (150 miles in the desert heat), not to mention the South Pole race (a 500 mile footrace across the Antarctica!) Would you class yourself as a real life action man at heart? and how do you prepare yourself to do something like that? Is there anything you can’t do?
I was never particularly sporty but I like to test myself physically and mentally. The Marathon Des Sables was one of the most painful experiences of my life but also quite illuminating. It was a portal into a whole new world. Not long after  I rowed the Atlantic and it kept spiralling from there. I try to exercise everyday but to be honest life’s experiences give you the best training. There are plenty of things I can’t do. Sewing, cooking, DIY…

How was it being back in Portsmouth last year to do the Bupa Great South Run? Will you be back to do it again? You got a personal best time didn’t you?
I loved the GSR. I hope to return next year to do it again. I got my PB last year. Maybe it was to do with the fact that I felt at ease back in my ‘home’ city. I ran it while suffering hand, foot and mouth disease. Don’t ask!

Tell us about your Honorary Doctorate from the University of Portsmouth. What was it for and how did you feel?
I was very honoured to receive it. I got it for services to sport and adventure and I am very proud.

What are you currently working on at the moment?
I spent the summer filming in Botswana and Australia for a new series Ben Fogle Swimming with Crocodiles and am about to film Storm City for Sky One

Finally, have you got any words of wisdom for the current students of the University of Portsmouth?
Enjoy yourself and make the most of the city. It’s a great place to be.

By Daniel Tidbury