PIERS MORGAN, CNN • Updated 15th August 2020
( CNN ) — The British countryside isn’t just about sheep, butterflies and golf courses — a whole culture of its own, and as intrepid journalist and presenter, Piers Morgan is keen to discover it all.
Last year, Morgan and his team toured the British countryside, filming and talking to locals as well as expert historians, farmers and environmentalists. The resulting series, called “Rural Life,” returns on August 14 on ITV.
The British sun shines frequently in Sussex, where we meet the sun-worshipping Sussexes. Morgan goes to the famous Brighton seaside resort and explores tiny rural villages and wildlife.
To say he thoroughly enjoyed his four-week trip around England would be an understatement. At a historic seaside town, the 56-year-old newspaper reporter says the weather is on a par with Monaco, and he catches up with his friends at the resort for an impromptu meal on the promenade.
The reporter flies into Crawley airport, where he and his wife Ruth enthuse over a jokey — but quite practical — wife swap.
“I’ve been a Sussexer for years — I’ve got a house there — so I’m used to that accent.
“But now that Ruth’s moved back to live in West Sussex, she’s now taking advice on our Sussexes back home and I’ve been joking with her ‘I’m jealous and jealous all the time.’
“As you get older, people do move across and get more absorbed in their own voice,” says Morgan.
The journalist says he’s fascinated by an entire culture and community that’s grown up around his family farm in the countryside of rural West Sussex.
“The land itself that we live on and go farming on is wonderful, it’s not a car park, it’s fantastic,” says Morgan.
“It’s changed over the years — industrialization, land tenure has been complicated, introduced by central government — there’s less and less people farming in West Sussex and they’ve moved out to the coast to coastal properties and then the countryside is treated as an ATM that is used as a problem rather than what it is: a green upland landscape that’s beautiful and unique.”
Topics covered include farming practices, food, beer and traditional occupations of the countryside.
“One of the things that I love about this series is that although it’s based around me living in the countryside, it’s not actually all me — there’s a lovely array of life that’s around my family farm,” he says.
The rural people are warm and friendly — a world away from the steely townies that Morgan has made a name for himself interviewing in his columns and TV shows.
“From the other side of the scale, a couple of people expressed some disquiet and told me how they’ve lost their jobs in the city, but who are my friends anyway?” asks Morgan.
“I think it’s a very smug and negative thing to do and I’m an outsider, I’m not a banker, I don’t work for the bankers, I can’t buy a house down there. I come from quite a working class background.”
A more reflective moment: “We were going to be farming and I heard from someone that, in order to get it right in Sussex, the main authorities — Eton and Cambridge — had their own cows — good cows — before anyone else could. And I thought ‘perhaps he’s right — I do like the thought of being a farmer’.”
“Rural Life” launches on August 14 at 9pm on ITV