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Living in the wilds: Meet the off-grid Ullapool family featured on hit Ben Fogle TV show

Julien, Iona and baby Leon filmed the show in Autumn
Julien, Iona and baby Leon filmed the show in Autumn

Meet the family from Ullapool who starred in Ben Fogle‘s documentary series, New Lives in the Wild, on Tuesday night.

Living off-grid deep in the north-west Highlands, Iona Scobie, 34, and Julien Julien Legrand, 29, from France, along with their infant son Leon, farm over 10,000 acres of hill ground on the East Rhidorroch Estate.

The small family’s unusual existence was featured on the popular show, Ben Fogle’s New Lives in the Wild, which aired on Tuesday evening at 9pm on Channel 5.

Filmed last Autumn, when Leon was barely six-months old, presenter Ben joined the family as they carried out their huge list of daily tasks from herding livestock on horse-back, deer-stalking and looking after their various animals.

East Rhidorroch is eight miles away from Ullapool, with very limited TV, internet or mobile signal, with the family instead producing their own hydro-electricity.

The program attracted thousands of viewers who admired the couple’s hands-on approach while taking baby Leon with them everywhere they went.

Filming with the family last year during lockdown.

Speaking about the show after it was aired, Iona revealed the shock of having a film crew joining them after months of lockdown and not seeing many other people, including their nearest neighbour who lives four-miles away.

Iona, who took over running the farm and estate for her parents full-time last year,  said: “I still can’t believe they managed to film it during Covid really. We weren’t allowed to stand within two-metres of anyone.

“We don’t do that normally because everyone here is bubbling and living here so it was quite strange. But it came across really well in the filming.

“They chose the right time as this area had just entered a different lockdown level before it went back into the strict levels.

“I don’t normally watch TV and when I go to my cousin’s house it’s the only TV show that I will watch.

“So when they came asking to do the show with us it was definitely yes from us.”

Living off-grid

The couple live in a cottage on the farm, which is powered through an old water turbine from the 1960s. They chop wood for heating and cook all their meals on the fire.

In the show Ben helps the family carry out the daily tasks, including clearing away large amounts of gravel that blocked the damn.

Iona explained: “Ben was lovely and very down to earth.

“He’s actually got a lot of skills that weren’t shown in the program. We sheared some sheep with hand shears and he was great at that.

“He just slotted into our lives and helped with things like chopping wood and clearing the dam.”

Highland ponies are used on the farm instead of machinery

Although Iona was raised with her two sister in a traditional farming family, where the girls learned to ride horses at an early age, Julien came from a very a different background in France.

The couple fell in love around 10-years ago when Julien came to work on the farm while travelling.

Favoring traditional methods of farming over modern means, the couple also use Highland ponies to work the land.

Iona added: “It’s a get on the horse and off you go sort of thing.

“They are amazing and we’ve had them for so many years. They are used for everything, from round up the sheep and cattle to bringing deer off the hills. They can go places that off-road vehicles just can’t.”

Filming with baby Leon

Along with Ben, one of the stars of last night’s show was baby Leon, who joined the film crew and often had to have  his nappies changed on the nearest rock while his parents  worked.

Baby Leon joins the couple everywhere during daily jobs

Iona said: “What was interesting is that they were hours and hours of filming.

“Leon is with us all the time anyway but he did amazing and put up with everything. In the filming there were moments where everything looked amazing but it was absolutely freezing.

“So he did really, really well.”

You can catch up with the family on Channel 5’s website. 

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