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JLS star and Kent farmer JB Gill walks the River Stour for BBC's River Walks

By Angela Cole

For visitors to Canterbury city centre, the River Stour provides some of its most picturesque spots, including the world famous Ducking Stool.

But what else do you know of the Stour as it wends its way across the county?

Step forward JB Gill, star of the four-piece pop group JLS, who played to thousands across the world and topped the charts until they split in 2013, to take you on a geography and history lesson.

JB Gill, formerly of JLS and now a farmer in Kent, will be on the BBC
JB Gill, formerly of JLS and now a farmer in Kent, will be on the BBC

JB, who since leaving JLS has taken a different route in life, now has a smallholding near Westerham, and is presenter of CBeebies’ Down on the Farm.

He went on a voyage of discovery himself to pass on his new-found knowledge of the river as part of BBC One’s River Walks.

The programme, which takes viewers on a walk through the Kent countryside, guided by the route of the Kentish Stour, airs next week.

JB said: “I love walking, and being out in the countryside. I knew the River Stour already but didn’t know the history behind it.

“For me it was as much about places within Kent and discovering the Stour. It was great to learn so much and meet people along the way.”

He spent four days walking the 58-mile route from Lenham near Maidstone to Pegwell Bay in Thanet, walking with the programme’s production team (while his wife, Chloe, held the fort on their family farm).

“The whole point is to encourage people to get out and see more of the countryside and their county. We took four days but you can make it more leisurely. And of course you don’t have to walk all 58 miles in one go!”

His journey along England’s most historic river took in the medieval village of Wye, to the Roman city of Canterbury and the extensive reedbeds of Stodmarsh Nature Reserve.

JB Gill is now a Kent farmer Picture: www.edabney.com
JB Gill is now a Kent farmer Picture: www.edabney.com

He met local experts along the way, and stopped at landmarks including Godmersham Park.

So, if he were to choose a favourite section, what would it be?

“Pegwell Bay was my favourite, though it was a bit blustery the day we went.

“When you get there and there’s that expanse of sand and sea, it’s stunning.

“I also love Canterbury. It has a stunning cathedral.

“The thing is no matter how long you live anywhere there’s always things that you don’t know and you can learn more.”

It may all seem a far cry from his days playing to stadiums around the world with JLS, whose hits included Eyes Wide Shut and One Shot, but JB thinks not.

“My lifestyle is slightly different though. But I’m still involved with broadcasting and on television - I’m still as busy as I ever was.”

DETAILS

River Walks is on BBC One on Monday, December 10 at 7.30pm. There are different programmes for the 11 regions covered by the BBC. The whole series will be available on BBC iPlayer.

The River Stour in Canterbury
The River Stour in Canterbury

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