Cotswold Character: No ordinary Joe
PUBLISHED: 15:26 22 October 2013 | UPDATED: 09:36 24 October 2013
© Thousand Word Media
The TV vet tells Katie Jarvis about his Cotswold life - and why he'd ban caravans from our countryside.
TV vet Joe Inglis shot to fame as a student at Bristol University, where he was filmed for the reality show Vet School. Since then, he’s become a familiar face on our screens, including regular appearances on The One Show, ITV’s breakfast show Daybreak, and LIVE with Gabby. Indeed, it was while he was working as vet on Blue Peter that he met his wife, Jenny, one of the show’s science presenters.
He’s also the man behind Swindon’s innovative Vet’s Klinic, a state-of-the-art practice that allows people to view surgeons at work, and gives online access to updates, photos and videos of pets as they go through their treatment and operations. “It’s been a case of dragging the veterinary profession into the 21st century, and I’m very proud of that,” Joe says. He’s recently left to start work on a new project – yet to be announced – focusing on online pet food; while Jenny runs Ditsy Doodles, a crafts business.
The couple have three children, aged two, four and seven, a rescue dog, and two cats.
• Where do you live and why?
We live in a house in Aldsworth called Wheelwrights. No one seems to know the exact history but we think it dates back to the early or mid-19th century. At some point it was a wheelwright’s, of course, and at another it was an undertaker’s – they used to store coffins here. Aldsworth itself is full of ambiguous history. There’s a story of an old horseracing track up on a farm about a mile away which, apparently, was one of the most famous of the 18th century. People would come here from all over the country, but nobody really knows about it now.
• How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?
I lived in Cheltenham, if that counts, from about 1997 until 2003; then Jenny and I went travelling. We lived in the Caribbean for a year, followed by France, before ending up in London, which we hated. When we first came back to this area seven years ago, we bought a little house in Bibury, which we outgrew when we started having lots of children!
• What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
I’d be out in the garden, with the children, on a nice sunny day… for a little while. I’m the kind of person who gets bored easily, though, so I’d soon be off doing a bit of DIY. My piece de resistance is a big bookcase with a hidden doorway in the living room. I’m really proud of it! People may remember that I once set up a company doing mountain-boarding. I still had lots of bits of prototype mountain-boards and wheels, which have ended up as the working mechanism for my bookshelves. It says something about middle age, doesn’t it: extreme sports stuff has become a bookcase!
• If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?
Quite easy, this one: the Old Rectory, by the river in Quenington, which is the most amazing house in the world. We go there every year because they host the fete and the sculpture show [Fresh Air, one of the UK’s leading outdoor sculpture exhibitions]. I grew up in a water mill in Northamptonshire so my heart has always been with water.
• Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?
Probably in one of those modern, gated communities of second homes around the lakes [in the Cotswold Water Park]. However beautiful the houses are, they seem very regimented, without any individuality. I can’t ever imagine living in a new house unless it’s a really funky, exciting one. The only problem with our old house is heating it, which is a nightmare on LPG. We’re wondering whether to get one of those biomass boilers – my wife really does feel the cold.
• Where’s the best pub in the area?
Our local, the Sherborne Arms, is friendly, unpretentious and old-fashioned. Whenever my dad comes to visit, the dog gets really excited because he knows we’re off to the pub where he can hoover up the crisps. I also like the Keepers in Quenington – another down-to-earth pub.
• And the best place to eat?
The Wheatsheaf in Northleach, which has a reputation for being a bit Sloaney but we really enjoy going there – lovely food and service.
• Have you a favourite tearoom?
When we lived in Bibury, we used to pop into Bibury Court Hotel. You can have a cup of tea in an amazingly grand setting – a bit of a step up from Starbucks.
• What would you do for a special occasion?
Last week, for my birthday, we went to see the Globe theatre on tour in Oxford, which was wonderful: King Henry VI, Part 3. I haven’t seen much Shakespeare and I always think, ‘I’m not going to be able to follow this!’ but you always do; you tune into the language. It only took 25 minutes to get into the city centre, which is one of the great things about living in this area.
• What’s the best thing about the Cotswolds?
The space. If you look at a map of southern England, there are few places as sparsely populated. I can get to the M25 in an hour, but I can also walk out of my house and see the stars at night. Even though we’re completely accessible, we’re rural and remote.
• ... and the worst?
I know it’s selfish to think that all the new housing developments are a bad thing, but I do worry the Cotswolds are going to lose their character. I’d have thought that adding a few more houses to Bristol or Swindon or even Cheltenham would be better. Where I grew up in the Midlands was more ‘industrial’ rural, with some rather nasty towns like Kettering and Corby. But there are no unpleasant bits in the Cotswolds; it’s so unspoilt… but I fear that might one day be lost.
• Which shop could you not live without?
One of the worst things about living in Aldsworth is that there is no shop; but one of the nearest and best is the village shop in Sherborne, which is fantastic. It’s really small but it’s always got what you need.
• What’s the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?
It has to be the people. The Cotswolds have a reputation of being quite standoffish and pretentious but I’ve found most people here lovely and friendly.
• What would be a three-course Cotswold meal?
I do quite like cooking but there’s an unwritten rule in our house: if it’s quantity and speed, then I’ll cook; if it’s quality, my wife will cook. Jenny is a vegetarian, whereas I love roast lamb. If it was my three-course meal, I’d also have Bibury trout in there, and a Wheatsheaf pudding.
• What’s your favourite view in the Cotswolds?
I still play cricket for Bibury, where the pitch is the most idyllic ever. You’ve got this gorgeous river valley, flanked by trees. It’s strange how different the countryside is between Aldsworth and Bibury, and that’s one thing I really miss: dog walks around Bibury’s stunning woods and river banks.
• What’s your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?
Bibury, again: it just doesn’t get more quintessential. We lived in Arlington Green, opposite the Catherine Wheel, so you didn’t get the full force of the Japanese tourists – though we did occasionally find they’d wandered into our garden. I don’t think they imagined people really lived in the houses; they probably assumed we were all actors.
• Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds
The unspoilt nature. It’s funny to think that, 100 years ago, it would have been a very working-class kind of place. Look at Arlington Row in Bibury, which probably had sheep and shepherds living in it.
• What would you never do in the Cotswolds?
Go caravanning. There should be a ‘No caravans!’ rule for the Cotswolds. There is nothing more guaranteed to spoil a view.
• What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?
I’ll probably be entirely wrong but Oxford; Cheltenham; Stratford; Bath.
• If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?
Everything you need – your memories and the views – is in your mind. The Cotswolds are all outdoors for me, so they can’t be summed up in an object, unless you could take the Coln Valley. My wife loved the Caribbean but I preferred coming back to cold, damp autumn days in England.
• What’s the first piece of advice you’d give to somebody new to the Cotswolds? If you want to live in a village, don’t assume they’re all the same; there’s so much variety. Aldsworth is very different to Bibury which is very different to Meysey Hampton. While if you want peace and quiet, then South Cerney is probably not for you.
• And which book should they read?
I quite like reading history, though I haven’t read one on the Cotswolds yet. So maybe they should read a history of the Cotswolds, then lend it to me.
• Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?
There’s a big circular walk in the woods that we’ve started doing in the Sherborne Estate. There are dens, and things to climb on, and enormous 30-foot high rope swings with carved wooden seats. Then we end up back at the Sherborne shop for coffee.
• Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
The Cotswold Show sums it up – full of fine food, agriculture and Range Rovers. I also like Bibury Duck Race. I once started it, which was nerve-racking because I had to fire a shotgun in the air with a huge crowd of people around me. I kept wondering what would happen if it went wrong. ‘TV vet in Bibury massacre.’
• If you were invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?
To be able to wander in the woods around Bibury, without nature running away from you, would be great. I suppose you could say that a love of animals is in my blood because my great, great, great grandfather was Charles Darwin. It sounds remote but my grandmother, who died a couple of years ago, knew his son, which makes it feel a closer connection.
• To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?
To the people who built the Cotswold stone walls. I built a metre of stone wall in our garden, and even that was a nightmare to do.
• The Cotswolds - aspic or asphalt?
Preserve them. If we lose what’s special, it will be to the detriment of the whole country.
• With whom would you most like to have a cider?
I’d absolutely love to meet Charles Darwin – a man who changed the world. He had this amazing theory that solved the conundrum of where life has come from, yet the world is still dominated by religion. Although, ironically, he’d be able to explain that in terms of how we’ve evolved to have superstitious beliefs, I think he’d be shocked by the place religion still has in the world.
This article is from the November 2013 edition of Cotswold Life
To keep up with Joe Inglis’s news, visit: www.joethevet.co.uk