Poldark actor Robin Ellis: My life in south-west France

PUBLISHED: 10:02 20 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:02 20 April 2020

Robin and his wife Meredith have lived in Tarn in south-west France since 1999 ©Meredith Wheeler

Robin and his wife Meredith have lived in Tarn in south-west France since 1999 ©Meredith Wheeler

Archant

He made his name as the original Captain Poldark but a move to Tarn and a diabetes diagnosis led the actor to add cookbook writing to his CV

“It was love at first sight and within five hours of walking through the door, I’d bought the place,” smiles actor and writer Robin Ellis, who made his name as Captain Poldark in the original 1970s TV series.

Robin, now 78, and his American-born wife Meredith were visiting friends in 1990 when they bought the property, an 18th-century former rectory a few miles from the picturesque village of Lautrec in Tarn, Occitanie. “We didn’t set out to buy a place in France, it just happened. Our friends told us about a lady who was selling so we decided to take a look. The moment I stepped inside I had a very positive feeling,” explains Robin, who used it as a holiday home until moving lock, stock and barrel in 1999.

Robin's cooking is inspired by the produce available at his local markets ©Meredith WheelerRobin's cooking is inspired by the produce available at his local markets ©Meredith Wheeler

When he was younger, Robin was a self-confessed “townie” and could never envisage living in the countryside. Now, he wouldn’t swap rural life for anything. “As the years passed, it was increasingly difficult to head back to London, and eventually finding myself wanting to live in rural France was a real surprise!” he says.

Work these days still involves applying the greasepaint from time to time, and he’s had a regular role in BBC’s new version of Poldark, playing Reverend Halse. Much of his time in recent years though has been dedicated to writing cookery books. His fourth, Mediterranean Vegetarian Cooking: Delicious Seasonal Dishes for Living With Diabetes, is published in June. “I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1999 and it was a shock. I do all the cooking at home and before long people started suggesting I wrote a cookbook but it didn’t feel right because I’d never been a professional cook. I have, though, always enjoyed collecting and writing recipes. But after the Type 2 diagnosis, it seemed more legitimate to present a list of recipes to a publisher which were not only good for me but others with the condition.”

In addition to writing books Robin has also run numerous cookery workshops ©Meredith WheelerIn addition to writing books Robin has also run numerous cookery workshops ©Meredith Wheeler

Robin has also run nine cookery workshops in a nearby gîte. “People came from all over the world, including New Zealand and the United States, and we cooked what Meredith and I eat. They’re dishes for everybody, not just diabetics.”

His choice of meals is aided by the fact local markets sell a profusion of tasty, attractive fruit and veg. “The markets are so good here – it’s one of the great things about this area. You get lots of local, seasonal produce and everything tastes wonderful. There are at least five markets each week to visit.”

Robin enjoys the view from his home in Tarn ©Meredith WheelerRobin enjoys the view from his home in Tarn ©Meredith Wheeler

When he’s not writing, cooking or visiting markets, Robin enjoys walking in the local countryside. “In a strange way, I feel lucky to have been diagnosed all those years ago because the way I’ve lived since has probably made me healthier than I might have been otherwise.”

Read the full article in the May 2020 issue of Living France magazine, on sale now

Mediterranean Vegetarian Cooking: Delicious Seasonal Dishes for Living With Diabetes by Robin Ellis is published by Little, Brown in June and is avaialble to pre-order on Amazon.

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