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Ellie Harrison

Ellie HarrisonEleanor "Ellie" Harrison, born on the 17th of November 1977 in Gloucestershire, is an English ecologist, journalist and television presenter. Harrison currently provides filmed reports or is a presenter on various television shows, including Countryfile, Country Tracks, The Great British Winter and The One Show for the BBC and the Daily planet for the Discovery Channel.

As a presenter on Countryfile on BBC One she presents an endearing image - a beautiful woman in the country, generally wearing a pair of Wellies and with the likelihood that there's some fresh mud or dirt on her hands. Her shows are always interesting and her knowledge of her subjects is obvious. See one of her shows and it becomes obvious why the higher-ups at the BBC and the Discovery Channel knew they had a winner when they put her on the air.

Born to a father who was a carpenter, Harrison grew up in rural Gloucestershire close to Cirencester, where the family grew their own fruit and vegetables and kept chickens. She was educated at Sir William Romney's School, Tetbury. While studying geography at King's College in London, she was in a relationship with Nathan Hutchings, the son of actor Geoffrey Hutchings.

Through his father, Hutchings had contacts in Zimbabwe from the shooting of the Clint Eastwood film, White Hunter Black Heart, which allowed the couple to visit the country. It was on a trip there that Harrison gained a greater interest in wildlife. She then went on to graduate with Bachelor of Arts degree in Ecology and Geography from King's College, London in 2000.

Ellie HarrisonWhile considering a career as a country singer, Harrison held a number of temporary jobs to support herself and ended up as a secretary for Channel 5. Picked from a line-up to host the children's show Milkshake!, she turned it down, but a year later was chosen to fill in for Michaela Strachan while she took maternity leave.

Harrison presented Michaela's Wild Challenge for over a year, during which time the show won a children's BAFTA. This encouraged her to become a freelance television presenter, presenting across the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and the Discovery Channel.

Harrison has been engaged to physician Matt Goodman since she was 27, with whom she has two daughters (b. 2009 and 2011). The family live in Gloucestershire.

Over the years shes had to overcome a stereotype of being on television only because she is a beautiful blonde. But even in unfashionable waterproof coats, rubber wellies and knit hats Harrison can’t hide her looks. She calls this syndrome ‘the blonde, fluffy thing’.

She knows it’s part of the reason she’s on TV to begin with – she was picked from a group of Channel 5 secretaries to take over a children’s wildlife show by a male Channel 5 producer.

Ellie Harrison"The blonde, fluffy thing hasn’t always been of great benefit," she says.

"It can get in the way of people thinking you're credible, so I try and shrug it off. I've had people approach me from both inside and outside of TV, who are surprised that I can string a sentence together."

The 35-year-old Harrison won kudos from critics for being the only one of the Countryfile presenters not to completely fall over with gushing comments when Prince Charles appeared on the show. Harrison didn’t even realize people had commented on her interview with the Prince about his work for a farming charity.

She says she was quite nervous every second of the interview and was just being her straight-talking kind of girl self. She said seeing HRH at work did make her feel a little sorry for him.

"I thought he was fabulous – but what a tough job he has," she says.

"It’s like walking into a party and having to talk to everyone and make them feel comfortable and laugh all the time. He talked to each of us and we were all nervous. It must be exhausting, even though he’s incredibly good at it. It’s a tough gig – a very dutiful life."

Ellie HarrisonIt had been rumoured that she wasn’t showing enough dedication to the show so she was being given some of the trickier jobs on Countryfile. Things such as inserting 40 year-old semen into a cow. But, the rumours were wrong and she insists she loves every element of her job, even including impregnating animals.

The BBC were so impressed they handed her the enviable role of presenter on their newest animal show, Britain’s Big Wildlife Revival.

The programme looks at different wildlife habitats and how animals, including the hedgehog, puffin and kingfisher are disappearing from them. It also explores what can be done to save these species, as well as how other threatened creatures are being spectacularly revived with our help.

Other presenters who might be better known, such as Bill Oddie, Philippa Forrester and Ben Fogle, will present segments on their favorite animals but Harrison will be the prime presenter.

"It’s very timely and feels important," says Ellie.

"We're putting out a message very strongly that these species need help; we can't keep just tinkering around. We need to make a big noise about it. There's been so much change in modern times that the decline's happened quickly for a large number of species. I've seen a big change even in my own lifetime; you don't see hedgehogs any more."

Ellie HarrisonEllie, who has two daughters aged three and two with her fiancé Matt Goodman, is a real life country girl. She grew up in the Costwolds, near Cirencester where her carpenter father grew a garden and bred chickens - she and her family recently moved back there.

"We had a cockerel that was very vicious," she recalls,

"so Dad shot it and we had it in a pie - that's real country living. The more connection we have with what we eat, the better."

Clearly it's a subject she's passionate about:

"When you see those ‘turduckens’ – turkey, duck and chicken – stuffed together at Christmas and they're on sale for £10, I think there's no way you can have three lives humanely reared if you're selling something so cheaply."

"It sounds a bit controversial but I wouldn’t mind if my children went on a school trip to an abattoir to see the reality of it. There are good deaths and bad deaths in the food chain; it's an important part of understanding food provenance."

Ellie HarrisonWhile she's passionate about animals now, it wasn’t always so. She studied geography when she attended university and it was actually her boyfriend, Nathan Hutchings, the son of actor Geoffrey Hutchings, who sparked her interest in wildlife.

"Because his father had been in the Clint Eastwood film White Hunter Black Heart in Zimbabwe, Nathan had contacts there and we went a few times. He was into zoology and he got me really excited about animals."

"One time we were in South Africa diving for great white sharks. We were throwing chunks of meat overboard to attract them. Because the weather was getting choppy they decided that to get the shot we needed I had to lie on the end of the boat with my hand on the camera"

"There was a researcher hanging onto my ankles and a guy watching the water who was supposed to shout at me when it was time to jump up. It was only later that the director told me he’d seen a shark investigating my hand and deciding not to eat it and swimming off. The guy who was meant to be watching out couldn't see a thing."

As a freelancer, Harrison is quite happy that the work keeps coming. But as one of the younger presenters who replaced Miriam O’Reilly on Countryfile she says she's well aware her time on the show may be limited.

Ellie Harrison"I’d love to have a career as long as David Attenborough's but I know I won't be getting a carriage clock. It’s not a Countryfile kind of thing, a BBC thing or even a television thing. It's more about how the nation views older women."

"Quite often you'll see an older guy next to a younger girl on television, but you don't really see it the other way round. But that's the nature of television here, and I'm just enjoying the things that are coming my way now."


Ellie Harrison - Ring of Fire


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