Bolton-born Sara Cox left behind her family’s farm in the village of Little Lever for the glitz and glamour of showbiz at the age of 21.
She had started out modelling in Manchester and was cast for Channel 4’s The Girlie Show in 1996.
But after living in London for the past 25 years, she’s now trying to recreate a slice of her Greater Manchester farm life in the capital.
Lockdown made the TV and radio star feel that ‘life is too short’ to not do the things that made her happy, so she set about getting her own horse – reliving a childhood hobby.
“After The Girlie Show, I just hung around,” Sara, who dropped the ‘h’ from her name, said of moving to London.
“Radio 1 changed everything and then I landed my dream job with Radio 2.
“I’m so lucky but I am trying to recreate my farming upbringing though,” Sara said, as she spoke on the phone from inside her car, wearing joggers and a ‘mucky’ coat.
“I’ve just been to see the horse, and I’ve got the dogs in the back, so I pretend I’ve just been to the farm, but I’m actually just driving back to my house in London on the M1”.
The 46-year-old had made contact with a woman she worked with when presenting BBC’s Love in the Countryside, who put her in touch with a friend selling a horse.
Now, she enjoys tending to and riding Nelly, a ‘gorgeous’ Irish Sport Horse, who lives at a stables just 25 minutes from her house in North London.
“In lockdown, I thought, life really is short,” Sara said.
“I’d always ridden, but not owned a horse for 30 years, so I thought, ‘what am I waiting for?’ Get on with it.”
Alongside her presenting gigs, in 2019 the mum-of-three published a memoir of her life on the Bolton farm in the ‘80s – Till The Cows Come Home – and later that year began writing her debut novel – Thrown – which is to be released in May.
But she found it impossible to write in the months after pandemic restrictions forced everyone indoors, with her teenage children having school lessons over Zoom.
“I went from having the house to myself all day then going off to do my radio show, to lots of people being in the house,” she continued.
“I mean, it’s my family, they’re allowed to be there.
“And we have a nice big house, luckier than a lot of people, but it was impossible to write the book for a bit.
“Writing is a really selfish activity because you need to be alone, and not bothered, but then I suddenly had three kids home all the time, so I was checking my daughter was on her history class, checking the work for my daughter’s Spanish class.
“Luckily my children are older – 11, 13, and 17 – God bless the mums and dads who had a baby and a two-year-old to look after, I would have built a panic room and just laid in there.”
Whilst she’s fairly new to writing, Sara has been an avid reader since she was a child, and has been able to explore her love of books as part of her presenting duties.
She’s the face of BBC’s Between The Covers, which returned on November 10 for series three.
Sara remembers her mum having a constant stash of books on her bedside table, and when they’d go on holiday, Sara would pack six books in her suitcase.
The Radio 2 host was a fan of a “good trashy, sexy novel”, and could often be found devouring Jackie Collins’ novels, and also books by Jilly Cooper.
“She would combine horses with a bit of raunch, so that was a favourite,” Sara added.
“It’s always been nice to escape into a good book, so this is a dream job. I have to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea and biscuits and just read a lot of great books.”
Between The Covers sees Sara joined by a panel of four celebrity guests in each episode, including singer Fleur East, radio presenter Greg James, and comedian John Thomson, where they discuss two books from the show’s reading list – with the aim to get people reading and trying books that they might not otherwise have picked up.
In preparation for the six-part series, Sara has to read in ‘every spare second’ she gets, devouring multiple titles on the go, with the help of audiobooks too.
“Every second I’m not on the horse or on radio, I’m reading,” Sara said, who cites one of her favourite novels as The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk, as recommended by DJ pal Annie Mac.
“But it’s a lovely job to have to read, and it makes me make time instead of gawping at a screen, scrolling Twitter.”
Sara says she wants viewers to have three things by the end of every show.
She said: “I want people to have laughed a couple of times; I want people to have found out something different about the guests; and I want them to leave with a little list of books that they want to read next.”
Between The Covers is available to watch on BBC iPlayer and returns to BBC Two on Wednesday at 7pm.