BBC Gardeners' World star Frances Tophill's 9-to-5 job, health battle and Gogglebox stars links

Frances Tophill in her allotment on Gardeners' World
Frances Tophill in her allotment on Gardeners' World -Credit:BBC

Gardeners' World presenter Frances Tophill has been a beloved figure on the BBC programme since she joined in 2016, but there's much more to her than meets the eye. Launching her television career while still at university without any prior TV experience, Frances was chosen to appear alongside Alan Titchmarsh on ITV's Love Your Garden after responding to an email seeking enthusiastic gardeners.

Her face might also be familiar from her contributions to Grow Your Own At Home With Alan Titchmarsh and Eat, Grow, Love, not to mention her authorship of five gardening books. But what do we know about Frances beyond her television appearances?

We delve into her everyday job, her initial steps into home ownership, and her connection to two ex-Gogglebox personalities.

Frances Tophill's 9 to 5 job

Frances Tophill's day job is quite the revelation. Away from the cameras, she holds down a full-time position as head gardener at Sharpham Trust Gardens in Devon, reports Birmingham Live.

In 2023, Frances hasn't taken a single day off, dedicating five days a week to the gardens and spending weekends and her 'holidays' filming for Gardeners' World. Despite the packed schedule, Frances thrives on being active.

She shared her thoughts on balancing both roles: "I have always struggled with just being a TV presenter," she said. "I don't feel it's authentic and I don't get to do the thing I love which is working outside and being with people on my own terms without there being a camera in my face."

"I am always keen to make sure I am working for real as well. I have to book holidays when I want to go away for filming. But Gardeners' World has been very accommodating."

Frances Tophill's connection with Gogglebox stars

Frances got her first gardening job working for former Gogglebox stars Steph and Dom Parker. She was an apprentice gardener at their Grade 1-listed, St Edwin Lutyens-designed manor house in Kent known as Salutation, which boasted award-winning gardens.

Frances shared: "I'd left school without an idea of what to do, got a job in Marks and Spencer. But there was a gardening job going nearer to home the Salutation Gardens. So, I wandered down to the garden and just asked about it."

"It was Dom and Steph's garden before they were on Gogglebox. They lived in the house and we gardeners kept to ourselves. The apprentice my job did the clearing of the drains, the turning of the compost and made the tea in the mornings for the head gardener."

"It was a classic education in Victorian-style horticulture, which was a good foundation for everything that has come since. I have now rejected that wholeheartedly, since moving to Edinburgh and seeing community gardens where everyone works together. It was a real eye-opener."

Frances Tophill's health struggle

The presenter, who has dyslexia, a common learning difficulty that can lead to challenges with reading, writing, and spelling as per NHS guidelines, has not allowed this to impede her career. She has authored five books, including "The Modern Gardener" and "The Container Gardener," and earned her BSc in Horticulture with Plantsmanship from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 2013.

"My degree course was supportive of me doing the TV work, but they never imagined I would ever have a career in TV and it would never have occurred to me," Frances disclosed. "I was really shy as a child. When I was a teenager I used to be in bands with my sisters and found it so nerve-wracking I had to give it up. If you had told me then I was going to be a TV presenter I would have said, 'no, no, no! '".

"I was terrified when I first did it. I am still very shy. I have to channel something to do it; I have to find something internal that says it isn't really me. I would never have imagined my life as it is now. It's weird, strange and unexpected but it's good."

Frances Tophill's 'very small' first home

Until recently, Frances Tophill had been splitting her time between a friend's spare bedroom and the reliable van she uses for work trips, accompanied by her cherished rescue dog Rua.

She shared: "I got into TV presenting at the age of 23 while I was studying for my degree at Edinburgh Botanics. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was living. I moved back home to Deal in Kent for a bit, then I moved to Bristol, then back home again."

"I now have my own place in Devon. It's my first home. It's very small but I love it. I haven't got all my books and my piano there yet. I'm still in the process of moving in."

Frances also opened up about how Alan Titchmarsh had expressed worry over her plans to purchase a property. She disclosed: "I called him the other day to tell him about my new home because he was very concerned about me. I'd been trying to buy a house for years, then it was the pandemic, and it was all very competitive."

"I said if I didn't get it, I could just buy myself a little field and live in my van. He said, 'you can't do that! ' So, I called him to say I got my keys. I will keep my van, though. I need to have a home on wheels."

"It's really important for me to have a space that feels like home when I'm so far away from actual home when I'm filming. Katie Rushworth, my co-presenter on Love Your Garden, often joins me to sit in my van for a tea. And I have Rua, who comes to work with me. He's a great gardener's dog."