WITH THE “punishing schedule” of studio-based car shows behind him, Jeremy Clarkson has opened up about what he will be doing with the extra time he has between filming road-trip specials: farming and conservation.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times Magazine today, Clarkson is revealed to be an enthusiastic ornithologist and country gent when at home on his 1,000 acre farm in Oxfordshire, complete with the essential flat cap, Barbour jacket and wellington boots.
Having moved to the Chipping Norton property in 2009, and subsequently told by an expert that it was “the shittiest land he’d ever seen,” Clarkson set about increasing biodiversity by planting maize, sunflowers and mustard, and through a scheme of tree and hedgerow planting, as well as clearing streams and ponds to create new habitats.
“When I first came here the skies were empty,” Clarkson told the paper. “It took a while to establish the right vegetation and feed crop. The yellowhammer is listed as endangered, but there must be a hundred living in the hedge just 200 yards up from here.
“I’ve seen bullfinches, chaffinches, goldcrests. I’ve got owl boxes around the place, and lots of fieldfares come swarming by. In the space of five years it’s started to look like Slimbridge [wildfowl reserve] without the geese.”
“Nothing fills me with more pleasure … than stomping about here. It’s just, honestly, the nicest thing you can do”
It’s a proper working farm growing the staples of wheat, barley and oilseed rape, according to Sunday Times Driving editor Nick Rufford, who visited the property for the interview.
Although the third series of The Grand Tour, which is currently airing on Amazon Prime Video, is the final car show to feature Clarkson presenting with James May and Richard Hammond in front of a studio audience, it isn’t the final series.
A fourth has been commissioned, however it will entirely consist of road-trip special shows to be aired over two years, which frees up time for the trio to spend with their respective families, and pursue other interests. For Clarkson, that means switching from 200mph supercars to slow-and-steady tractors.
He said: “Nothing fills me with more pleasure, as I head towards 60, than stomping about here on a winter’s day, or even a summer’s day. Any day, in fact. It’s just, honestly, the nicest thing you can do. Even pulling a fallen horse-chestnut tree out from the pond is just deep joy.”
Mind you, Clarkson may still court controversy in his new rural life. He isn’t averse to shooting game birds such as pheasant, and has plans for the “pompous” fox hunters, who not only ride through his land disturbing the wild birds but also stop traffic by blocking roads.
He joked: “What I thought would be fun is to one year invite the hunt and the antis and watch them have a massive battle.”
Read the interview at thesundaytimes.co.uk