Mum is the word for Julia Bradbury
The Countryfile presenter tells Gabrielle Fagan about the baby she never thought she'd have.
Julia Bradbury is known as the television presenter who's walked, scrambled, climbed and even abseiled over some of the world's most spectacular terrain while entertaining viewers with her bubbly personality.
But now the Countryfile host, who is usually seen unencumbered apart from the occasional rucksack, has baggage: admittedly cute baggage in the form of four-month-old son Zephyr, who often travels with her strapped into a papoose, and whom Bradbury describes as a “miracle” after she'd virtually resigned herself to being childless.
“I'm so lucky, he's the most wonderful, chilled little boy,” she says.
“My mum's Greek and his name comes from the Greek word Zephyr, which means a breath of fresh air, and I know it's unusual but it's so appropriate because his coming into my life is like a breath of fresh air.
“He's caused a complete gear change in my lifestyle and as I honestly never thought I'd have children at this stage, he's truly |a miracle and a blessing,” she |says delightedly of her son who was born two days before her |41st birthday.
Over the years, the driven, feisty professional has been consumed by her flourishing career.
After a modest beginning on cable TV, she landed a plum role in Los Angeles reporting on the red carpet for GMTV, has appeared on BBC's Watchdog, and her hugely successful BBC Four series, Wainwright Walks, which was only supposed to last for four programmes, has won audiences of a million and 50 programmes have since been made.
In June she presented a BBC Three series, Kill It, Cut It, Use It, focusing on how animal products are used outside of the meat trade.
“I'd done what many career women do; I'd focused on my career, as I really enjoy my work and find it challenging and stimulating.
“There was always a project here and then a new project there, and the years slip by,” she explains. Her hopes also suffered a blow when she was in her early thirties and discovered she suffered from endometriosis, a condition which can affect fertility.
“I'd always wanted to be a mother, I'm very close to my family. After that diagnosis, and as the years passed by, I did have dark moments when I contemplated life without children and how hard that would be to bear.
“Of course, you wonder about all the other routes such as surrogacy or adoption, but most of the time I just tried to be pragmatic, positive and optimistic and think, 'What will be will be'.
“You have to appreciate what you've got in life rather than yearning for something that might not be.”
Her delight and astonishment when she discovered she was having a baby with her partner, 51-year-old Irish property developer Gerard Cunningham, was tinged with nervousness.
She had to find ways to avoid her normal competitive challenges with Countryfile co-presenter Matt Baker without alerting anyone to her pregnancy.
“I confided in Matt, he's a great mate and a dad, and was brilliant at helping me out.
“I'm so outdoorsy and active and it was tricky finding excuses not to abseil down a cliff, fly to |all parts of the world, or generally do anything which could risk the baby.
“Everyone kept saying, 'What's wrong with Jools?', until I could finally tell them,” she says.
She's regained her normal energy and although she will not return to Countryfile until next year, just 12 weeks after Zephyr's birth she returned to the screen presenting BBC One series That's Britain!
The light-hearted consumer-style programme investigates everyday issues from potholes and lost luggage to junk mail.
“It's all been a bit of a whirlwind — I've done all the things you're not supposed to do. We moved house just before he was born, and now I've taken on this new job straight after his birth, but it's so much fun that I couldn't resist it,” she says.
“I'm determined to combine work and family, so Zeph comes with me wherever possible, and |so far he's been up to the Scottish Highlands, the South Downs and Birmingham. Of course, instead of scrambling down like a mountain goat as I normally do, I take it a bit easier when he's on board.
“And I can often be found sitting in a car in car parks with a shawl over me looking rather furtive and suspicious — but actually I'm just expressing breast milk, so he can have a bottle of it if I'm on set!”
She seems to effortlessly manage the juggling process — within two days of the birth she held her birthday party for 35 people — but a year ago she was rocked when both her parents were diagnosed with cancer.
Bradbury, who grew up in rural Rutland but went to school in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, had her passion for the countryside ignited by her father, Michael, a retired steel-industry worker, who took her walking in Derbyshire.
She says she inherited her sometimes emotional nature from her Greek mother, Chrissi, a designer.
“It's been a very worrying, tough time. They're both in their 70s but had been so fit and well and suddenly Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer and Mum with colon cancer,” she says.”
“Thankfully they've both been treated successfully but Mum's recovery is proving a little slower. She's getting so much joy from Zeph though — he's helping to give her courage and strength to get well.”
Bradbury's seemingly unstoppable enthusiasm and optimism is part of her charm and she looks much younger than her years.
“I'm aware that this is an age-conscious business and I realised the other day that now I'm an old bird! I was sitting in a car with the crew and suddenly noticed I was the oldest person there.
“It's not something I worry about — and my philosophy is |to avoid getting type cast and keeping my work as varied as |possible and to keep enjoying every opportunity.
During her spare time, she takes pleasure in walking, even if these days she has her baby in tow.
“Have another one?! Good |heavens, I've only just had this one and that's hard enough work. |What's hilarious is that you have two adults who are mature and experienced in life and, yet , this little bundle, is completely ruling our lives!
“Everything revolves around this little being, but it's wonderful to have a different focus — someone to take care of who brings so much joy.”