Tuesday 11 Mar 2014
Ben Southall from Ropley in Hampshire, the man who bagged what was dubbed "the best job in the world" as caretaker of Hamilton Island in Australia, launches the new season of BBC South current affairs programme Inside Out on Monday as he explores an island a little closer to home.
More than 34,000 people applied but 34-year-old Ben won the £80,000 six-month contract aimed at selling Australia to the rest of the world. He's been in Queensland since July with his girlfriend Bre.
But before he set off the Inside Out programme suggested he try his hand at exploring the Isle of Wight.
And, as Ben discovers, the island is full of people who feel they've actually got the best job in the world.
Inside Out producer Jane Goddard said: "We thought we'd see if Ben wanted to do an island practise. We introduced Ben to people on the island who all have a caretaking role in one way or another and who all think they have the best job in the world.
"You'd be surprised to find how many people really love what they do and that seems to be because they've been drawn to the island because it offers something unique."
The BBC took Ben, Bre and his Land-Rover Colonel Mustard over to Cowes and, as part of the adventure, they drop in at Freshwater Bay for a spot of Isle Of Wight coasteering and sea kayaking.
Owen Burson, who has run courses in the sport for the past three years, told Ben: "Sea kayaking, coasteering, all I want to do for ever, I couldn't be anywhere else..."
Ben, a self-confessed adrenalin junkie, certainly sees why Owen thinks he's in the running for having the best job in the world: "It gives you a totally different perspective on the coast as you're in the water and you are looking up the cliffs as opposed to being on the top looking down. And it was really good fun, thoroughly enjoyable.
"It's a lovely way to explore it and the Isle of Wight is an amazing place and it's got so many little hidden treasures... Yes he's got a pretty darn good job really."
Nestling in a field near Newport is Helen Cunningham and her sparkly herd of Silver Airstream caravans.
"It started with a few drunken bids on EBay and grew from here – I love the island and we've made a business out of not much changing," said Helen.
Helen and her husband Fraser run Vintage Vacations, a holiday let company with a difference, all based on the island where you can stay in a Fifties Airstream complete with crocheted blankets, Babycham glasses and cream tea on arrival.
Ben also meets the Wheeler family, of Steephill Cove, who have worked this beautiful hidden part of the island near Ventor since the 1400s.
"It was Helen who introduced us to David Wheeler," said Ben.
"She said if we wanted to really step back in time we had to go to Steephill Cove. We sampled a delicious famous crab pasty and met David and his family who have lived and worked on the island since the 1400s... amazing."
Keen to hear more about Ben's new job, David asks Ben: "Are there cannibals? Salt water crocs? You don't know what's in the water waiting to grab you. Come back and tell me what it's like and watch out for them crocodiles..."
With a packet of walnuts in hand, Ben's then off to meet John Ralph, the man responsible for protecting the island's own Tufty Club – its population of Red Squirrels.
Through John's work people are able to get hands-on with this threatened species.
"It is a balance and it's not always easy, but I think it is best to encourage people, especially the youngsters who in the future will look after the planet when we're gone," comments John as he feeds his woodland friends by hand.
"But it is by far the best job in the world."
As his first island adventure comes to an end, Ben feels humbled by those he's encountered.
He says: "The biggest thrill has been meeting so many people convinced that they, not I, have the best job in the world.
"After my stint in Australia this is one island paradise I know I'll be returning to."
You can see the full story of Ben's Island Trial Run on BBC One South, Monday 12 October 2009 at 7.30pm.
Also in the first episode of this new series Joe Crowley is on the trail of the Philosopher's Fraud – the Sussex-based academic Erich Kofmel now wanted by police on suspicion of fraud after duping people with fake holiday lets.
BBC South's Inside Out, Mondays, BBC One, 7.30pm, or watch again at bbc.co.uk/iplayer.
Ben can be contacted for interview.
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