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7 Questions with… Jeremy Clarkson: '30 years driving around corners too fast while shouting didn’t turn out to be too useful'
We hear from Jeremy Clarkson as he swaps fast cars and travel adventures for sheep and a 1,000-acre farm in new Amazon Prime Video series Clarkson’s Farm.
James May showed off his cooking skills, Richard Hammond played adventurer on a desert island, but as ever, Jeremy Clarkson had to outdo both his old friends when it came to his first Amazon Prime Video solo project.
Clarkson’s Farm finds Britain’s most famous petrolhead switching cars for tractors and globetrotting adventures for ploughing fields and chasing sheep.
This isn’t a stunt or a joke. The Grand Tour presenter has bought a 1,000 farm in the countryside and suddenly got to deal with flooding, disobedient animals, oh, and a global pandemic.
We caught up with Jeremy to ask him seven burning questions about his new series…
1. Did anyone tell you not to try this challenge?
Literally everybody! Because farming is a vocation. You either need to be born into it or you need to go to agricultural college and learn how to do it. You can’t just say, “I’m going to do farming.” It is phenomenally difficult.
In my mind, you put seeds in the ground, weather happens and food grows, but that’s simply not true. We did put seeds in the ground – I’m looking at a four-acre patch over there – and nothing grew. Nothing. An entirely organic operation, total failure.
It’s a very, very complex business. I know of no profession that requires you to be so multi-abled. You have to understand soil, weather and science. You have to be a mechanic, a midwife, a businessman, an agronomist, and a water diviner. You also have to be a gambler. My only qualification is driving around corners too quickly while shouting, which is of no use at all.
2. What did the local farmers think?
I hate the word community, but there is a farming community around here and I think when they heard Jeremy Clarkson was starting work on a farm they all laughed a bit. But bit by bit I think they accepted, "Oh he’s trying" and it’s better than letting the farm go to rack and ruin.
3. Is it true you’ve turned from a petrolhead into a twitcher?
You can have that as the headline if you like. I’ve always been interested in birds, ever since I was little. Now that I’m here, you spend all day and every day outside and you really begin to notice them.
The reason I can’t do the tractor in a straight line is because if I see a flock of yellowhammers in a hedge, I tend to go wandering off. I’ve never seen loads of these birds in action before, so it’s been fascinating for me. It’s fascinating to learn how the countryside works, which very few people do I’m afraid.
4. Are you turning into James May?
Ha! No, I’m still interesting. James May has no clue about the countryside. He’s very much a city dweller and wants to mend steam engines.
Have James and Richard visited? No, they’re banned.
5. You seem to strike up a real bond with your male sheep, Wayne and Leonardo...
I’m afraid it's bad news, Wayne didn’t make it. Sheep, they genuinely do this, they wake up and think, "How am I going to die today?" They don’t want a simple clean death or at a convenient time. They’ll put their heads in things and try to tear them off.
It’s a non-stop struggle trying to keep them alive. And even better, you make no money out of them. Kaleb (Jeremy’s helper on the farm] did say to me, "Don’t get sheep, don’t get sheep, don’t get sheep". So I got sheep. Now I wish he’d been a little bit more emphatic.
6. There are lots of rules for farming. You’re not known for following rules, so how have you found sticking to them?
Quite. It’s not so much following the rule about riding the tractor in the straight line, I just always think I can do better than this. Thousands of years of agriculture has taught us you can’t do better than this, but I just thought, "Yes, you can" and I made a complete mess of it.
Government rules and regulations: some of them are useful but the vast majority are just… You have farmers like Kaleb and they really know their stuff. They are not trying to harm the countryside or the animals and the wildlife living in it. But they keep getting told what to do by people in Whitehall.
Why is there this constant bombardment of rules and regulations at people who know exactly what they’re doing? Maybe it will become clear to me when I learn more about farming. I don’t understand it at the moment though.
7. You started a farm shop. What was the inspiration for the unusually-scented candle that you sell?
Gwyneth Paltrow does a candle that says ‘This smells like my vagina’. So I thought, “Fine, well, if she can do that, I’m going to have a candle that smells like my b******s". It actually smells like an old, comfortable leather jacket. It’s a very nice smell, if you like scented candles.
I’m not really a fan, but there we are. Lisa [Jeremy’s partner] bought 10,000 of them.
Watch Clarkson’s Farm from Friday, June 11 on Amazon Prime Video.