At home with new Surrey Life columnist Andrea McLean
- Credit: Archant
She’s been brightening up daytime TV for over a decade and next month, along with husband Nick, Andrea McLean will join Surrey Life as our new columnist. We sent Zoe Richards to meet them at their home in Ashtead | Photos: Andy Newbold Photography
In her role as anchor on ITV's Loose Women, Andrea McLean is used to dealing with high-profile guests. But today, at her home in Ashtead, it's adorable new addition, cavapoo Teddy who is getting all the attention.
We're greeted at the door by Andrea's husband Nick Feeney and the four-month old rescue pup. The couple had already acted as foster carers to several dogs from Battersea before Teddy showed up but it's clear to see why the pair couldn't resist giving this particularly cute ball of fluff his forever home.
Aside from the obvious distraction of Teddy, the couple mill around in an easy, friendly manner as Nick prepares breakfast and Andrea gets set for a day of meetings up in London. We're here today to talk about Andrea and Nick's new column in Surrey Life, starting next month.
As devoted Surrey residents, it's their mission to explore and report back on the rich pickings of small businesses, days out and places to discover around the county.
While beautifully decorated, there are no airs and graces in this house. Drawings and certificates are stuck casually on the fridge, photographs of happy holidays adorn the walls and there are stacks of books around the place - all clues to the bustling family life that goes on here.
The couple share their home with Andrea's teenage children Finlay and Amy, along with Nick's two daughters, Tia-Lily and Sienna who regularly visit. "There's a lot of love in this house," Nick confides.
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"My happiest time of the week is Saturday morning when all the kids are around. I'll make a massive stack of pancakes and we'll gather around the table to have breakfast and chat."
Andrea's antidote to the hectic glare of the spotlight she faces in her professional life is the spacious self-styled veranda at the back of the house. "I grew up in the Caribbean so I've always loved relaxing outside but unfortunately, Surrey doesn't quite have the weather for that," she laughs.
As well as studying for a garden design course, Andrea researched Colonial-style porches shortly after buying the house, and - with the help of Pinterest - brought her dreams of a covered sanctuary to life. "In my job there's a lot of glamour up front, but sometimes chaos behind the scenes. I love coming back here to somewhere calm I can completely relax."
Totally peaceful and private, you could almost be anywhere in the world snuggled up on the veranda, yet Andrea is grateful of the Surrey location she ended up in. Having lived in South London for many years previously, Ashtead provided a convenient commute to work, and she was taken with how friendly the local town was.
Her parents relocated to be closer, and now also live locally, "they love it around here," says Andrea. "My dad is in the Rotary Club and my mum has joined the Rock Choir."
As well as anchoring Loose Women one or two days a week, Andrea and Nick are busy with a new venture, which has literally got them both fired up. After writing her second best-selling book, Confessions Of A Menopausal Women, Andrea was overwhelmed with the response from women who her experiences had struck a chord with.
"Over 10,000 people got in touch and I just thought, how can I keep this conversation going?" she admits. The answer was to launch the website thisgirlisonfire.co.uk.
Designed as an inspirational space with a mission statement to empower women to live, learn and thrive in a life they love, the website is currently clicked on by thousands of women from over 80 countries in the world - and counting.
While Andrea's original menopause experience was what resonated with so many, the site has grown much bigger than just that story. "Going through what I have made me realise that I had a voice and I wasn't really using it," Andrea explains. "I decided that I just wanted to help."
There was another pivotal moment in Andrea's life that confirmed her commitment to spreading her empowering message too. "I was 49 years old when I appeared on the TV show Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins last year," Andrea recalls.
Billed as the toughest show on TV, it puts recruits through a brutal series of tests, which challenge the limits of their mental and physical capabilities. "I had never been pushed so far before, and I realised that often we don't achieve things in life because we're not willing to get past our discomfort."
Describing it as a game changer, Andrea was determined to pass on a little bit of the grit she had acquired to encourage others to set goals, grow, develop and inspire them to live their best lives.
Very much a partnership, Andrea and Nick work closely together on the website. In fact, it is Nick who is instrumental behind the scenes and in bringing the big dream of global success to life. "If you'd have asked me 10 years ago what I'd be doing, I would never have imagined this," he confesses. Previously running an investment business and his own glamping company, it's quite a departure, but one he's relishing.
Plans for the website include expanding the platform with the launch of an online marketplace where women are invited to buy products, download courses and experience events that align with their values and visions.
And, as well as the website, the couple also run a creative ideas company for TV, which is cooking up some exciting plans for the future. Plus there's another book in the pipeline for Andrea, who still cites writing as her first love, "my favourite thing to do is just to sit down, be quiet and write," she says.
There's not a great deal of downtime in amongst the juggling of a TV career, family life and growing a fledgling business, but the couple do carve out time to look after themselves. "This is the most fulfilled I've ever been, but we do work on it," confesses Nick.
"We both keep fit, eat well and meditate." The couple love taking the family to The Derby Arms by Epsom racecourse or The Star in Malden Rushett, which is dog-friendly and serves good food, including a vegan menu, much to Andrea's approval.
For special meals out, it's The Ivy in Cobham they head for, and Andrea even hosted her 50th family birthday meal there last October. "We're always looked after there. It feels a bit decadent, but we both love it," smiles Andrea.
And, of course, there's a new puppy to walk. A location dear to their hearts is Epsom racecourse - a space where the big sky provides an escape from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
With plenty more places to explore, we're looking forward to Andrea and Nick's local discoveries and lifestyle insights starting in Surrey Life next month.