Prince Charles and Matt Baker
Embarking on the epic challenge this Friday in Holyhead and pedalling the length and breadth of England and Wales for the ninth time, Matt has quite literally learned to grin and bear it. “I don’t train beforehand,” he admits. “I get on and crack on. It is wonderful to see the difference the Rickshaw challenge makes. You can see the look on the kids’ faces and watch them grow and develop. They are flying by the end and that is what Children in Need stands for.” This year for the first time, riders who are visually impaired or blind will take part in the 470-mile ride. And at the foremost of Matt’s mind will be continuing to make the much-loved late Sir Terry Wogan proud.
“I started on the board seven years ago alongside Sir Terry and that was magical,” he recalls. “I am now doing my best to keep his legacy going.
“As a parent, your perspective changes and you can’t bear the thought of your child being in a situation where love is not enough. It relies on the generosity of the public to keep it going but I really do think everybody comes together with Children in Need.”
After the Rickshaw challenge, dad-of-two Matt, 41, will head back to his family home in the Chiltern Hills, where he is at his most content. While he has interviewed hundreds of A-listers, prime ministers and royals, it’s fair to say he would far rather be out in the hills than attending a glitzy ceremony.
“I lead a very unglamorous life for someone who is on the telly every day,” he says. “I love being out in the wilds and my ethos in life is when I do finish work, I am back in the hills.
“I think it will come as a surprise to some that I still farm sheep. I grew up on a sheep farm in Durham and the pace of nature is what makes me tick.”
It’s this love of the countryside that helps explain why he has bonded so well with Prince Charles, who has appeared regularly on Countryfile as a guest and editor of the programme.
And such is his respect for the future King, Matt has even bought sheep from him.
Matt and Blue Peter badge
Matt with his sheep
“Prince Charles is fabulous,” he declares. “I really like him. He is like a farmer and that is why I like him. He has got a big farmer’s hand and you know he is so passionate about our British landscape and surroundings. I feel like I have a lot in common with him. I have got some sheep of his too. I bought some sheep from him when we were there working on Countryfile.
“It’s great he has all this passion and it is nice to talk to someone about things you are really into as well.”
Yet if politicians or A-list stars believe they are in for an easy ride, then they should think again – Matt’s research is thorough. He reveals he often knows the answer to the questions he poses before he has even asked them.
“I never think, ‘This is going to be a breeze’,” he admits. “I am relentless with all the research I do. I very rarely ask a question without knowing the answer!”
So after eight years at the helm of The One Show, does he want to do something else? It’s a resounding no. He says: “People say, ‘What do you want to move on to?’
“But I have a chat show on BBC One at 7pm, I have Countryfile, which I joined in 2009, and I do the Olympics too. Life is totally complete.”
Matt with Alex Jones
Preferring to keep his family life private, Matt does reveal he doesn’t want his own children to grow up without knowing the meaning of hard work.
“I was talking to my son recently about success,” he confides. “Success is not how talented you are – it is the ability to make something happen. If you work really hard and you are not afraid of it, then you will make it happen.”
Bursting into laughter, he says he certainly went above and beyond to make landing his first job on TV – Blue Peter – happen.
“It was my wife, Nicola, who was then my girlfriend, who suggested it,” he recalls. “She heard they were looking for a new presenter and told me to give it a go. I rang directory inquiries and got the BBC number. I phoned them up and I asked to be put through to the editor of Blue Peter.
“Not surprisingly, the editor’s assistant told me he was busy. I told her not to worry and I would ring back in 10 minutes.
“I duly did and then kept ringing her back every time she told me he was busy. Eventually she asked why I was ringing and I told her I could be the next Blue Peter presenter!
“She told me if I could get a show reel in by the next day, they would have a look at it.
“So I put the phone down and shouted to my dad to get the video camera out quick – we were making a show reel. As ridiculous as it seems, that is what happened!” Looking back on the crazy chapter, he says, doing the show was one of the best times ever.
Matt with Pudsey and Team Rickshaw
“Foreign reporting was so much cheaper back then and I filled three passports up while I was on the programme,” he recalls. “I did so many things and I even took part in a hang-gliding world record! I still talk to Simon Thomas, my co-presenter, a lot.
“We experienced so many things together and I love taking my children travelling now. Blue Peter was a recce for where to take the children in the future.”
Incredibly content, Matt, who was runner-up in the 2010 series of Strictly Come Dancing, says he knows he is lucky to be living, breathing and doing what he loves best – live television.
“All the things I am incredibly passionate about, I get to broadcast about on telly,” he says, smiling.
“I love what I do and I love the fact that I am out in the wilds too. I wouldn’t change anything.”
For more information about Matt’s Rickshaw challenge and how to donate, go to bbcchildreninneed.co.uk