Jo Wood on being a glamorous granny, the Rolling Stones and Bramley life
The end of her marriage to Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood marked the start of an exciting new chapter for model, TV personality and entrepreneur Jo Wood. From settling into her converted barn near Bramley to lending a hand at the family’s new shop in Cobham and taking the grandkids on visits to Bocketts Farm, not to mention running her successful organic beauty business, there’s never a dull moment. Surrey Life’s Tracy Cook went to meet her
There's a scene of happy chaos at Cobham’s new kids’ boutique, Budda ‘n’ Spice. Children are running round the brightly coloured shop, swinging in and out of graffiti-art changing rooms marked ‘Barbies’ and ‘Dudes’ and playing hide-and-seek under the counter. They are even drawing on the (specially designed graffiti) wall! Lucky then that they are the grandchildren of Surrey’s most glamorous granny, Jo Wood – and that she is behind the whole enterprise!
The former rock chick, 56, is loving it; scooping up grandson Kobi, two, for a tickle and playing peek-a-boo with Leo, five, among the shelves of ultra trendy jeans and tiny T-shirts in the shop she has opened with daughter-in-law Jodie, 31, and children’s stylist Charli Hooper. The boutique exudes rock and roll glamour and so does Jo, dressed in black leather trousers and five-inch black suede heels.
“Isn’t it fantastic?” she enthuses, throwing an expansive look around the shop, whose centrepiece is a gold statue of Buddha sporting a pink feather mohican. “It used to be a butcher’s, but they’ve changed it all and they did it really quickly. It’s Jodie’s baby. She’s wanted to do this for a long time. When she met Charli, they just clicked. They both wanted to do the same thing.”
Married for 23 years to Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, until their separation in 2008 after he started seeing 19-year-old Russian model Ekaterina Ivanova, Jo is now a busy entrepreneur. Aside from running her successful organic beauty business (more of which later), this latest venture sees her bringing London edge and hot new children’s labels to Surrey, close to where she has recently moved.
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Following on from her divorce, finalised in January this year, she has sold the �12 million mansion she shared with Ronnie Wood in Kingston and now rents a converted barn on the Wintershall Estate near Bramley, just outside Guildford.
“I’m tucked away in my own tiny corner there; I love being in Surrey actually,” says Jo, as we relax into a couple of stylish red leather chairs on the newly built mezzanine level above the shop. “I love being in the country; I love to wake up and hear the birds. Pheasants walk round the garden and there are hundreds of rabbits. It’s so peaceful. I need it for my sanity.”
Surrey is in the blood for Jo. “My dad grew up in Surbiton and my mum and dad met and married in Wimbledon,” she explains. “When Ronnie and I came back from New York in ‘86, we moved to Wimbledon, then Richmond and from there to Kingston.”
Now there are three generations of the Wood family living in Surrey. She rattles off the list of her four children and six grandchildren.
“Jamie, my eldest, who is married to Jodie, lives up the road in Oxshott with Leo and Kobi. Before he married, he had Charlie with his ex-girlfriend, Charlotte. Then there’s Jesse who lives in Kingston. He does modelling and has got a band. He’s got two kids, Arthur and Lola.
My daughter Leah is in Australia, but she’s coming back in January. She has Maggie. And then there’s my youngest, Tyrone – he was staying with me the other weekend actually. He was cooking for Mother’s Day. In fact, Jamie was a bit upset I didn’t go over to them. The two of them were fighting over me!”
Family is clearly very important to her and she relishes time with her grandchildren. “I really enjoy being a granny; I love it,” she enthuses, with an affectionate look at the children playing downstairs on the shop floor. “We usually go to each other’s houses to see each other, but I’ve been to Bocketts Farm, near Dorking, a few times. The children love the animals.”
Rock and roll days
It’s all a far cry from her rock and roll days when Jo toured the world with the Rolling Stones. Throughout the 1970s she modelled, was the face of The Sun in 1972 and designed for fashion label No Scruples with her friend Lorraine Kirk. In 1977, she met Ronnie and started styling him, marrying him in 1985 and living in LA, then New York.
She revisited the spotlight in 2009, with a successful twirl on Strictly Come Dancing, making it to the sixth round with partner Brendan Cole. “Oh, I absolutely fell in love with Brendan. He was just wonderful. We have a great friendship,” she smiles. “I hated the actual live performances, but I really enjoyed going to the gym every day to hang out and learn the new dances. We had a blast. I would do it all again.”
Now she drives up to London most days to run her various enterprises, including her own range of beauty and bath products, Jo Wood Organics, which she launched in 2005. She has won awards in the beauty industry and even Kate Moss is a fan of the salt scrub. Next, she’s about to sign a deal with a new business partner to expand the range. “They’ve got great ambitions for it. There’ll be new products, new brands. We’ll be taking it to the next level.”
It was a serious illness 18 years ago that made her almost evangelical about eating and using organic products. She was misdiagnosed with Crohn’s disease and took steroids for two years, until it was found she actually had a perforated appendix. “It was amazing I was still alive! My skin, my body were destroyed. It took my soul away. I found a herbalist who finally detoxed my whole body and told me only to use organics. I owe my life to being organic.”
Everything in her home that can be is organic. “I used to grow my own vegetables in the garden at Kingston. I haven’t done that yet (at the new house), but I will do. I’m still finding my feet a bit. I need to take some time off and settle in to the area. But I buy a lot from a little organic supermarket in Cranleigh. And I was in Bramley the other day and noticed this little place that does shiatsu and reflexology, which I love.”
Now a passionate advocate for organic living, Jo writes columns in Natural Health and Fabulous magazines and regularly appears on TV, including on The Vanessa Show and Market Kitchen. She even started a pop-up restaurant, Mrs Paisley’s Lashings, serving organic food grown at home in Kingston.
“I was the only one living there, with all these vegetables from this huge garden. The pop-up restaurant was the perfect idea. I asked my friend Arthur Potts Dawson to cook and all the profits went to children’s charities. It was lovely. By the fourth night, we had 58 people. One couple came from Liverpool for their anniversary! It was three weeks of constant entertaining, but we actually really enjoyed it.”
Only last month, she opened Mrs Paisley’s Lashings at the Real Food Festival at Earl’s Court. “It was in a tent with chandeliers, vintage white lace tablecloths and all my vintage plates. We recycled and composted the food waste. We tried to make sure we didn’t leave a carbon footprint.”
And Jo’s next dream is to make sure her home doesn’t leave a carbon footprint. She wants to build an eco-house. “Surrey is the only place I’d look. I need to find some land – when I’ve got time!” she says, her eyes lighting up. “I want a windmill in the garden, solar panels, heating generated from digging down into the earth... I want it to be completely sustainable.”
Eco warrior, organic living devotee, charity fund-raiser, restaurant and children’s boutique owner, television celebrity… there’s no doubt Jo is embracing post-divorce life with enthusiasm. Has she started dating yet? “I haven’t got time for that!” she laughs. And then Kobi, a little grizzly from a few days of illness, climbs into her lap for a cuddle and she is just the glamorous granny again.
My Favourite Surrey...
Shop: “This one! Budda ‘n’ Spice in Church Street, Cobham.”
Restaurant: “I always love The Chequers in Walton on the Hill. It’s about 15 or 20 minutes drive away, but it’s fantastic for Sunday lunches. I go there quite a bit. And Petersham Nurseries in Richmond is my favourite place to go and eat. I love the garden centre there too.”
View: “I love walking round the lake near where I live on the Wintershall Estate, near Bramley. It’s just a beautiful place. On the lake, there’s an old derelict boathouse. We always go walking round there.”
Place to Visit: “My house! I love being in it. It’s got huge high ceilings and great big fireplaces. Every day, I get in my car and drive to town, so any chance I can I love staying at home!”
Place to chill: “My bedroom. I just love relaxing there…”