Helen Skelton is swapping her muddy wellies for ballroom shoes as she takes part in Strictly Come Dancing 2022.
The Countryfile presenter was the last contestant to be announced, but it’s not the first time she's appeared on the BBC show. In 2012, she took part in the Christmas Special, scoring an impressive 37 out of 40 for her festive jive with pro partner Artem Chigvintsev. Ten years on, mum-of-three Helen has expressed her delight to be taking part in the main series, saying she "can’t wait to get stuck into a fun adventure".
Helen has packed a lot into her career so far — she’s an accomplished television and radio broadcaster, published author, daredevil charity campaigner and she's set a few Guinness World Records along the way.
1. She was brought up on a dairy farm
Helen Elizabeth Skelton was born on 19th July 1983 to parents Janet and Richard. She has an older brother called Gavin, a former footballer who is now the first team coach of Carlisle United, and is said to have inspired her own career as a sports broadcaster.
Helen was brought up on the family farm in the Cumbrian village of Kirkby Thore, where her parents still live. As a lover of the outdoorsy lifestyle, Helen has confessed her favourite job on the farm used to be lying down in the fields to help her dad check if the grass was long enough to cut.
Staying true to her northern roots, Helen has set up home with her young family in Yorkshire, and regularly posts snaps of her stunning garden on her social media.
2. She has a degree in journalism
Helen attended the local primary school in Kirkby Thore, then Appleby Grammar School. Although she was passionate about sport and dancing, Helen had her heart set on becoming a journalist. After leaving school she gained a BA degree in journalism from the Cumbria Institute of Arts.
While at college, Helen got her first taste of being in front of TV cameras when she worked as an extra on ITV soap Coronation Street and BBC hairdressing drama Cutting It.
A brief stint working in public relations followed, before Helen landed a job as a breakfast host on BBC Radio Cumbria in 2005, making her one of the youngest presenters on the network at the time.
3. She's an award-winning tap dancer
Helen’s love of dancing started at a young age, and it was a skill she clearly excelled in, winning the Ken Dodd Tap Dancing award when she was 17. The accolade was named after the comedian Ken Dodd, who passed away in 2018 and was a patron of the International Dance Teachers’ Association.
Some Strictly fans have pointed out Helen's talent for tap might give her an unfair advantage in the dancing competition, but the star has defended any claim of a ‘fix’. Speaking out on ITV’s Lorraine, Helen admitted: "I found it so funny when they said it was a fix that I did the tap dancing. When I was a little girl, I did do dancing, but I didn't want to wear a leotard in public. When they asked me to do Strictly — I was hesitant — but my friends made me do it. Who else gets to go to work and get all dressed up!”
4. She found fame on Blue Peter
The 28th of August 2008 is a date Helen is unlikely to forget as it was the day she was announced as the 33rd presenter of the long-running children’s show, Blue Peter. Having already cut her teeth as a part-time reporter on Newsround and Sportsround, Helen was an instant hit with the young audience, and ended up staying on the show five years.
Post BP, Helen’s presenting career has continued to go from strength to strength and has moved into a variety of fields. She’s been a correspondent on Countryfile since 2008, and has reported on numerous key sporting events for the BBC, including swimming coverage in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Wimbledon and the London Marathon — which she's taken part in herself, three times.
5. She's a world record breaker
Being a contestant on Strictly is no ride in the park, but Helen knows exactly what it’s like to be pushed to her physical limits having competed in several grueling charity challenges. In 2009, she became only the second woman ever to finish the 78-mile Namibian ultra marathon, completing the exhausting run in an exceptional 23 hours and 45 minutes.
The following year, Helen kayaked the entire 2000-mile length of the River Amazon for Sport Relief, an achievement which earned her two entries in the Guinness World Records — for the longest solo journey by kayak, and the longest distance by a woman in a kayak in 24 hours.
And that’s not all. Adrenaline junkie Helen walked a 150 tightrope between chimneys at Battersea Power Station for Comic Relief, and in 2012 became the first person to reach the South Pole using a custom-built bicycle. Oh, and she also proved she’s a nifty boxer by defeating Love Island’s Camilla Thurlow in a celebrity match back in 2018.
6. She’s a published author
Drawing on her own incredible adventures, Helen penned her first novel in 2015. Titled Amy Wild: Amazon Summer, the story follows feisty young heroine Amy on her journey to South America.
Speaking to The Guardian at the time of publication, Helen revealed she based the character of Amy on herself: “A lot of what she says and does are things I have done. She’s bolshie and acts before she thinks. She means well but quite often things go wrong for her and she gets herself into scrapes, very much like me! She’s a kids’ answer to Bridget Jones or Ben Stiller in Meet the Fockers!”
Helen’s second book Wild Girl: How to have Incredible Outdoor Adventures is a personal compilation of her most daring adventures and accounts of the real-life wild girls who have inspired her along the way.
7. She's got her own radio show
After starting out her career on radio, Helen has come full circle and is back on the airwaves. Earlier this year it was announced Helen would be replacing Laura Whitmore as the host of BBC Radio 5 Live’s new-look morning show, every Sunday between 10am-2pm.
Helen, who has been experienced radio broadcaster for over 17 years, was overjoyed to be given the gig, saying: “I am really grateful to be joining the 5 Live family on a regular basis. I’ve worked with the station for years, and I’m looking forward to celebrating and showcasing some of the stories and events the top 5 Live team cover.”
8. She's a busy working mum
Outside of work, Helen's got her hands full, being mum to her three children – Ernie, seven, Louis, five and daughter, Elsie Kate, who was born in December 2021. The star shares her little ones with her estranged husband, English national rugby league player, Richie Myler.
In 2015, the family moved to France when Richie joined the Catalans Dragons club, and Helen ended up giving birth to second son Louis on the kitchen floor of their home. With her husband in England at the time, Helen had to rely on the help of firemen and two of Richie’s teammates wives to deliver her baby into the world.
Sadly, the couple’s marriage didn’t last and in April this year Helen announced she and Richie had gone their separate ways via a post on her Instagram account.
Helen Skelton’s fact file
Frequently asked questions about the presenter…
How old is Helen Skelton?
Helen Skelton is 39, she was born on 19th July 1983.
Is Helen Skelton married?
Helen Skelton announced her split from rugby player husband Richie Myler in April 2022.
Does Helen Skelton have any children?
Helen is proud mum to three young children — sons Ernie and Louis, and daughter Elsie.
Where was Helen Skelton born?
Helen Skelton was born in Carlisle, Cumbria.
How tall is Helen Skelton?
Helen is five foot two.
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Laura has been a journalist for over a decade, writing about soaps, TV entertainment, fashion, beauty, and food. After graduating from university, she started her career working at a national soap and TV magazine. During her seven-year stint there she joined the cast of Emmerdale for a tour around the famous village, partied with soap stars at awards bashes, interviewed her acting idol David Suchet, and sat in the front row of Strictly Come Dancing.
Her heart lies with the soaps, and her all-time favourite character has to be EastEnders' Pat Butcher - no one rocked a big earring quite like her. She's also a huge fan of detective crime dramas, particularly old school Inspector Morse, Endeavour, and adaptations of Agatha Christie's Marple and Poirot. When she's not writing, she loves a spot of second-hand shopping and going on adventures with her young son.