My Cotswold Life: Interview with Jago Hartland
- Credit: © Thousand Word Media
Jago Hartland was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was just 13, but this hasn’t stopped this remarkable young man from achieving his goals
Jago Hartland has achieved things most 20-year-olds can only dream of. He’s trekked in the Western Himalayas and through jungles in Vietnam; he’s climbed as high as Everest base camp; and completed the National Three Peaks Challenge (climbing the highest three peaks of Scotland, England and Wales) in under 24 hours. And, in the process, he has raised thousands of pounds for charity.
One charity, in particular, is close to his heart: the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Jago and three of his five siblings were born with this genetic condition that affects the lungs, digestive system and other organs. His oldest sister, Millie, died aged eight of CF, before Jago was born.
Jago’s diagnosis was made when he was 13, after years of unexplained infections. But that’s never stopped him tackling anything with positivity and good humour. “Normally, in my worst situations, I’ll start laughing and smiling,” he says. “When I was diagnosed with CF, my mum and dad picked me and my little sister up early from school, which immediately made me suspicious. I can remember asking ‘Has someone died? Has the dog been put to sleep?’ All things I was worried about.
“When they told me I’d been diagnosed with CF, I laughed with relief. Whenever I’ve got into a sticky situation, I’ve always thought rationally about it, had a smile, and tried to move forward.”
Jago’s latest challenge is a 430km Bristol to Paris cycle-ride, raising money for Above and Beyond. The charity supplies equipment to Bristol hospitals, where Jago has been a patient multiple times.
He lives with his parents, David Hartland – a sculptor - and Serena Stevens, who founded and runs Oak and Furrows wildlife rescue in Cricklade.
Where do you live and why?
We live in Somerford Keynes, on a plot we call The Land. It was just 10 acres of muddy farmland when we bought it, 16 years ago. The long-term plan was to get permission to build a house here – which we did 10 years ago - and for my dad to achieve his dream of opening a sculpture park. Dad has always loved a sense of freedom and nature – the same as mum, which is why she has her wildlife centre. And he thought it was important for all of us kids to grow up having the outdoors experience. Coming home from school and being released on to the land to do what you pleased, for however long you pleased, was very relaxed. Being surrounded by trees and wildlife gave you a lot of respect for them. It was also a very healthy way to grow up: we’d have goalposts set up; barbecues outside; we’d play cricket and catch, or do watersports. Even when I slept indoors, I chose to sleep under the bed most of the time! It was ingrained into me at a young age to challenge myself.
How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?
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All my life, from my first home on a council estate in the centre of Cirencester. I think the Cotswolds have created most of my character. If it’s not down to the environment, then it’s down to the people around you - outdoor, nature-loving people.
What’s your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
It would start with cycling to my gran’s, in the village next door, for a Saturday morning cooked breakfast. That’s been a tradition of ours for as long as I can remember! And then I’d work, which I’m used to doing at weekends. Pretty much all of my jobs are things I enjoy: I housesit and dogsit; I freelance garden; and I work at Cotswold Water Park Hire. I’m also a rep for Mountain Tribal Vision, an Indian-based trekking company. No matter what trips I’ve been on myself, I always have to carry a heavier amount of kit because of my medication and nebulisers. The worst was the Himalayas last year, when I got altitude sickness, made worse by CF. I wasn’t sure what was going on – I was hallucinating - and couldn’t hold down food. We’d hit the same height as Everest Base Camp – 5,500 metres; luckily, that was our high point. As I walked back down, I recovered quite quickly. It’s funny because – not meaning to be big headed – I always begin by being the fittest and always end up with the worst problems! It’s hilarious.
If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?
Probably Chedworth because of its quaint size, quietness, and the Chedworth 10-mile run, which is one of my favourite races.
But if money were no object, I’d like to help fund Orkambi [not available on the NHS], an antibiotic that actually treats CF, the condition, rather than just its infections. It’s being considered in Parliament at the moment, but it costs a lot. For myself, I have really strict routines - two hours of physio a day and a vegan diet - so I’m not letting myself get to a point where I would need to take it.
Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?
Anywhere where there’s a big rush-hour, meaning I couldn’t cycle through the town properly. I’m currently averaging 100km a week on my bike, training for a 430km fundraising Bristol to Paris cycle ride, which I’m doing from May 4-8.
Where’s the best pub in the area?
There are loads: the Old George Inn in South Cerney; the Greyhound in Siddington; the Woolpack in Slad.... I’m a member of the South Cerney Stragglers, and every week we run from a different pub. The average age of our running club must be over 40 but I really enjoy having a drink with them all. I think having to face my challenges has aged me compared to a lot of my friends.
And the best place to eat?
Out of our fridge at home. Six months ago, I went vegan – 100 percent a health decision. I’ve been admitted to hospital four times in the past couple of years just on stomach problems. Since going vegan, I’ve managed to stop all stomach medication. I have to average around a 4-5,000 calorie-intake a day, made up mainly of nuts, beans, tofu, seeds, quinoa, lentils, hemp, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, nut milks, smoothies, and loads of oats. I love cooking.
If I go out – which I can’t afford to do very often with my lifestyle! – it would be to Seitan’s Grill [in Cheltenham], which does amazing vegan burgers with cashew nut cheese.
What would you do for a special occasion?
We have a few traditions as a family, such as on New Year’s Day when we go for a swim in the lakes. It’s now mostly dad and me – the others have tailed off a bit – but there were eight of us last year. On a couple of occasions, we’ve had to break the layer of thin ice on top! You have to splash yourself first or you go into shock, but I’m born to do stuff like that.
What’s the best thing about the Cotswolds?
The accessibility of countryside.
... and the worst?
The lack of mountains. It’s so flat!
Which shop could you not live without?
The village shop in Ashton Keynes, which is run by volunteers. I have so many memories of cycling or walking there with friends to get sweets and a DVD to rent.
What’s the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?
The puddles of lakes surrounding our village. When you’re out by yourself with a sailing boat, against the elements, you know it’s all just down to you.
What is a person from the Cotswolds called?
Posh, apparently! It’s funny because I’m usually unshaven, with messy hair and rather potent sportswear; so it’s never coincided that I’ve been called posh and I’ve felt it.
What would be a three-course Cotswold meal?
Butternut squash and turmeric soup; lentil bake; and then fruit. As a nighttime snack, I’d have some Bournville chocolate, which is vegan, luckily. I love dark chocolate!
What’s your favourite view in the Cotswolds?
If you walk 100 metres up the London Road in Cirencester, there’s a small patch of forest. Go to the top of the hill at the end and it breaks open into a field; from there, you get a perfect view of Cirencester and the church. Stunning.
What’s your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?
Ashton Keynes: everyone in the village is so supportive and there are loads of events: cinema nights, wine-tastings, music festivals, village football…
Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds
What’s your favourite Cotswolds building and why?
Cirencester church; it’s hardly the most beautiful now they’ve revamped it and it’s two different colours, but it always shouts ‘home’ to me. I’ve so many memories of standing outside, in all seasons, waiting for buses and friends and family. And when I’ve gone on long trips to places like Vietnam and India, I see the church and realise I’ve made it back.
What would you never do in the Cotswolds?
I hope this goes without saying, but: Never be disrespectful to your elders. Nor would I ever sit inside and play Xbox or PlayStation. There’s way too much to do.
Starter homes or executive properties?
We need to manage our population before we start building more houses.
What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?
I’ve cycled in Bath; Cheltenham; Fairford; and Swindon.
If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?
When I’m older, I’d love to live in a little house on the side of a Swiss mountain. And I’d take photographs with me – as I do on trips – as well as clothes that smell of home. We dry lots on the Aga so our clothes always smell of smoke. Lots of them also have an orange tinge, where they’ve nearly caught fire.
What’s the first piece of advice you’d give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?
Explore my dad’s Elemental Sculpture Park! There are around 140 sculptures on display, of which about 30-odd are his. It’s also a really nice place to explore nature, with a lot of flowers throughout the summer. My dad works in recycled metals, which even go as far as sculptures using old family cars half-buried on site. You can see my first ever car – a Vauxhall Corsa. It was running fine until I went on a camping trip and a friend accidentally pushed a surfboard through the windscreen!
And which book should they read?
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee: the most perfect book you can ever have about creating emotions in the Cotswolds. And Kenton Cool’s One Man’s Everest. It’s motivational to know the man who has climbed Everest the most times is from the Cotswolds. One of my goals, along with trekking to the South Pole, is to climb Everest.
Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?
Through Daglingworth Woods. In an open field, you get that lovely sense of being alone; but walking into a wood feels like an adventure.
Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
When we were younger, everyone in school got excited when the mop came to town. One of your friends would always end up going home with multiple goldfish, much to the unhappiness of their parents.
If you were invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?
I’d sit in a corner of an Oak and Furrows fox pen. As a child, I’d spend a lot of time playing with the cubs before they got too old; I’d even sit doing my homework in their pens. If I did that nowadays, without being invisible, I’d get weird looks.
To whom or what should there be a Cotswolds memorial?
To my granddad, Peter Hartland, who served in the army. He was Ashton Keynes Tennis Club president; he organised lots of village social events, and did charity work, too. He passed three years ago. A real inspiration.
The Cotswolds – aspic or asphalt?
We need to drag the Cotswolds into the 21st century. Young people, especially, need to be motivated to face up to the problems – such as global warming - that we are facing today. Yet the education system is failing them; and there are so many distractions in 21st century life that today’s young people don’t get to experience important things like boredom and hardship. That all needs to change.
What attitude best sums up the Cotswolds?
An old-fashioned agricultural attitude, which is possibly outdated.
With whom would you most like to have a cider?
Winston Churchill – because he’s such an incredibly motivational war hero. And Ed Sheeran, who has enjoyed a drink in the Cotswolds on numerous occasions. I’ve been a fan for a long time.
• If you would like to sponsor Jago on his charity cycle ride, visit b2p2018.everydayhero.com/uk/jago.
• There’s more on the Elemental Sculpture Park, run by David Hartland, at Theelementalsculpturepark.com.
• Oak and Furrows Wildlife Rescue is based at Cricklade. Visit the website here.
To learn more about Oak and Furrows, check our interview with Pam Ayres here.