Inside Gardeners' World Frances Tophill's life: health battle, first home and day job

Frances Tophill
Frances appears as a regular presenter on Gardeners' World -Credit:PA

Those with green fingers all over the country will know the familiar face of Frances Tophill, presenter of BBC Gardeners' World since 2016.

But in her life away from the screens, she has a little-known day job as well as surprising links to Gogglebox stars and even a hidden health battle that she has been facing for years.

The presenter kickstarted her career in television after having no previous experience while she was still studying at university. And since she had a keen interest in gardening, she got in touch with Alan Titchmarsh's Love Your Garden on ITV, which she then went on to star in.

Since then, she's also appeared in Grow Your Own At Home With Alan Titchmarsh and Eat, Grow, Love, as well as writing five books about gardening, Birmingham Live reports.

Here's a closer look into what she gets up to when she isn't giving us gardening tips on TV.

Frances Tophill's day job

Aside from presenting Gardener's World, Frances has another day-to-day job that also allows her to show off her gardening skills.

She works as head gardener at Devon’s Sharpham Trust Gardens, and has said that she enjoys keeping busy.

“I have always struggled with just being a TV presenter,” she explained. “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.”

Gardeners World presenters
Frances joined the Gardeners' World team back in 2016 -Credit:BBC Gardeners' World Magazine/Ja

Connection to Gogglebox stars

Frances's first gardening job was for none other than Gogglebox reality Steph and Dom. She was an apprentice gardener at their manor house in Kent called Salutation, home to award-winning gardens.

Frances explained: "I’d left school without an idea of what to do, got a job in Marks & 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.”

'Very small' first home

Until recently, Frances and her rescue dog Rua were living in between her friend's spare room and her van she uses to drive to jobs.

She said: “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."

Hidden health struggle

Frances has dyslexia, a learning difficulty that can cause problems when it comes to reading and writing. But she has not let this get in the way of her career, as she has written five books and completed a degree in horticulture with plantsmanship at 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 revealed. "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.”

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