As one of the original cast members of reality TV show Made in Chelsea, Cheska Hull was thrown into the A-List world of paparazzi and parties, but the 38-year-old admits she has always felt much more at home in Devon.

‘I would rather be in wellies on a farm or by the sea than walking along a pavement on the Kings Road – I’m more of a Hunter girl than a Jimmy Choo girl,’ she tells me from her home in Buckfastleigh.

Thousands of people became hooked on following the lives of Cheska and her group of ‘posh’ friends – including Spencer Matthews, Ollie Locke and Alexandra ‘Binky’ Felstead – when Made in Chelsea first aired on Channel 4’s entertainment channel, E4, in 2011. But the show was in fact not Cheska’s first foray into reality TV. As a teenager, when she wasn’t at boarding school in Oxfordshire or at her family home in Salcombe, she would regularly travel to New York, where her father spent much of his time on business.

‘Sometimes I’d go for the whole summer, so I got to know people there. I did work experience at a fashion magazine and, while there, met Tommy Hilfiger's daughter, Ally, who became a friend,’ she explains. ‘Ally was starring in a TV show called Rich Girls, which was the first reality show of its time, way before The Kardashians and The Hills, and I appeared as her British friend.’

Great British Life: Moving back to Devon was the best thing she's ever done, says Cheska. Moving back to Devon was the best thing she's ever done, says Cheska. (Image: Tessa Bricknell / Headcake)

Back in England, after studying fashion promotion at the University College of Creative Arts in Rochester, she began working in PR and was soon rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous in London’s most exclusive bars and nightclubs.

‘I was working with some really cool alcohol brands and nightclubs, and it involved doing events and parties for celebrities like Leo DiCaprio and Mariah Carey – the clubs wanted the celebrities in their establishments and the alcohol brands we looked after, wanted to be in the coverage,’ she explains. ‘So, we’d give the celebrity the most amazing night of their life, everything for free, in exchange for them to be papped and we'd write the story to go with the picture and send it to the papers. It was back in the day when all the free London papers would run a huge celebrity spread every day.’

It was at this time in her life that Cheska met long-term friend Ollie Locke, another original Made in Chelsea cast member. The pair shared a flat together in the early days and remain best pals.

‘I met Ollie when he worked on the door of Maggie’s, an 80s nightclub we used to go to in Chelsea, and we instantly hit it off and became good friends. We'd go to a lot of events, like polo parties and Henley Regatta, long before Made In Chelsea started,’ she says. ‘Chelsea is exactly how it looks on TV, everyone knows everyone. Everyone goes to the same nightclubs, same restaurants, same bars, it’s very incestuous and everyone is sleeping with everyone!’

Great British Life: 'Being here by the sea, I felt I could breathe again,' says Cheska,'Being here by the sea, I felt I could breathe again,' says Cheska, (Image: Tessa Bricknell / Headcake)

The bouji lifestyle of Cheska and her friends soon caught the attention of television producers looking to make a show similar to ITV’s The Only Way in Essex, which had started the previous year, but that followed Chelsea’s ‘IT crowd’.

‘While the show is described as reality TV, you do end up slotting into certain roles and I was very much pigeon-holed into the role of narrator,’ says Cheska, who was on the show for four years. ‘Binky was the girl next door, Spencer was the villain, Ollie was the confused one. We all had our parts to play.’

While Cheska admits filming the show was fun – ‘We got to travel, we went to amazing parties and we got a lot of freebies,’ she says – there were certain pressures that led to her struggling with her mental health.

‘Behind the scenes, the mental health side of things was hard for everyone,’ she admits. ‘I don't think, at the beginning, that the duty of care from Channel 4 was quite as good as it is now. Constructed reality TV as we call it, was so new then and they were learning how to deal with it. Instagram had just launched and that was hard too, because we had to be present on platforms like that but then reading the hundreds and thousands of comments about people’s opinions of you was really difficult. That definitely played a massive role in me leaving the show.’

Great British Life: Cheska came home to her family in Salcombe and decided to stay. Cheska came home to her family in Salcombe and decided to stay. (Image: Tessa Bricknell / Headcake)

Cheska, who left the show in 2014 after appearing in eight series, had also been dealing with the loss of her father, who died only a few months after the Made In Chelsea first aired.

‘I never ever dealt with that. I just kind of carried on because I didn't want to lose my role on the show, so I just carried on filming as if everything was fine,’ she says. ‘But a few years later it all crumbled and I became depressed. I didn’t want to go to the parties and premieres and deal with photographers, I just wanted to go home and watch TV.’

Not long before her 30th birthday, Cheska took some time out to visit her family home in Salcombe, and never returned to London. It was a decision that changed her life for the better, she tells me.

‘It felt like I was going to Devon for a little break, a holiday, but then when I got there, I didn’t want to go back,’ she says. ‘It’s the best thing I've ever done. I do love London and I go up all the time for work and to see my friends, but I need to be surrounded by animals and nature. That is the real me. Being here, by the sea, I felt I could breathe again. I didn’t give a crap about what the newspapers or magazine were saying anymore, I was just happy with my feet in the sand.’ 

Great British Life: Cheska with Hayley Reynolds the founder and director of RAW PR agency. Cheska with Hayley Reynolds the founder and director of RAW PR agency. (Image: RAW)

After relocating, Cheska initially worked in her family’s antique shop in Salcombe, Amelia’s Attic, and set up an art business hand-painting oyster and scallop shells salvaged from local Devon restaurants. However, she has recently gone back to her PR roots, joining Kingsbridge-based company RAW, which helps promote local Devon food and drink businesses such as Salcombe Gin, Luscombe drinks and Sandridge Barton wine estate.

‘To find an agency in Devon that works with and supports local food and drink brands, which I'm hugely passionate about, is the best thing ever. So, while I left that world behind in London, there were elements that I missed, like my PR career, and now I feel I’ve got that back,’ says Cheska, who together with her best friend Gemma Van Rooyen, is recording a podcast, called Girls Gone West about swapping the London life for Devon.

She has also found love with local carpenter, Damian Crook, and the couple have set up home together in Buckfastleigh with Cheska’s five-year-old son, Charlie (Cheska split from Charlie’s father while she was pregnant) and Damian’s three children, Kitty, Evie and Arthur.

‘Charlie and Arthur are at school together and Damian and I met on the school pick-up. Life couldn’t be more different now from the ‘single’ days living in Chelsea – he has three kids and I have Charlie so it’s a wonderful, blended household and I couldn’t be happier.’

Great British Life: Cheska has found love in Devon.Cheska has found love in Devon. (Image: Cheska Hull)

Last June, on Cheska’s birthday, the couple returned to the pub where they had their first date, The Ferry Boat Inn at Dittisham, and Damian proposed.

‘We went out onto the pontoon in front of the pub, just like we had on our first date, and that’s where he proposed – it was very romantic,’ she says.

The couple plan to wed at Kingston Estate, in Totnes, next summer [2025] and want it to be a real local and sustainable affair.

‘Flowers are really important to me and I’m lucky that my friend owns Amelia's Flower Farm, which is over near Newton Abbott,’ she says. ‘We’re going to create our own personalised Salcombe Gin for the day and also plan on having a cheese tower as a wedding cake with cheese from Sharpham.’

Great British Life: Cheska's wedding next year will be local and sustainable.Cheska's wedding next year will be local and sustainable. (Image: Tessa Bricknell / Headcake)

And will her Made in Chelsea friends be travelling down from London for the occasion, I ask her?

‘Yes! We’re making it a three-day affair so they can stay for the whole weekend. Kingston Estate has a nightclub in the cellar with a 3am licence and, you know, my London friends love to party, so we’ll be able to dance ‘til late like the good old days,’ she laughs. ‘But the estate also has a big yurt, so we’re going for a chilled out boho festival vibe with street food – we just want it to be a really family fun party. We can’t wait.’