Martin Dorey – Western Morning News interview

Working to enjoy life

By Mike Bramhall


Martin Dorey has a simple philosophy in life: work and reward. It’s one that has underpinned his busy, eventful life and has paved the way for countless adventures and time spent enjoying the Westcountry’s beautiful beaches.

Some might think the Cornwall-based surfer, writer, VW owner, cook and TV star has the perfect life, making the most of his family and the gorgeous coast and countryside of his adopted home. And they would be right.

But as workaholic Martin, 47, makes clear, he has earned every second of the time he spends exploring the coastal paths, coves and surfing spots of Devon and Cornwall, foraging for nature’s harvest and cooking up quirky culinary creations on his classic camper van stove.

It has also led him to his latest project, the Two Minute Beach Clean initiative, which is sweeping social media sites and attracting thousands of volunteers. But more of that later.

So who is Martin Dorey? The husband to Joanne and father of daughters Maggie, aged 11, and Charlotte – otherwise known as Charlie – aged 10, lives in Bude and sprang to national fame in 2010 when he presented a 10 part TV show One Man and his Camper Van on BBC2, which has since been shown all over the world.

The ‘star’ of the show, if not Martin, was his 35-year-old Volkswagen Type 2 camper van, affectionately known as Dave. And making up the Dorey clan is a seven-year-old dog of unknown origin called Bob. Also in 2010, he published the phenomenally successful The Camper Van Cookbook, subtitled Life on Four Wheels, Cooking on Two Rings.

Billed as ‘the book that no camper van or motorhome owner should be without’, it features almost 100 recipes for cooking on two rings, over a fire or on the barbecue and a few ideas for fireside drinks.

It was followed two years later by The Camper Van Coast, subtitled Cooking, Eating, Living the Life. This featured more than 100 new recipes to cook in a camper van, on the campsite or at home. Many are based on ingredients which can be found at the coast.

As Martin explained about his first best-seller: “This was a book I had wanted to write for a long time before I actually got the chance to write it.

“I love to cook but I’m not a chef, nor will I ever claim to be. But I do consider every meal to be part of my continuing education in food.

“My love of cooking and camping comes from half a lifetime’s worth of experience cooking and sleeping in vans, cars and under canvas whilst on surf trips, but it wasn’t until I began picking and cooking mussels from beaches near my house that I had the idea for The Camper Van Cookbook and it all started to come together.

“I wanted to share everything I’d learnt along the way. I wanted to share the joy of waking up to perfect surf, of camping in the wilds, of spending time with good friends, of eating well, of finding food and of getting off the sofa. It’s not much to ask is it? Simple pleasures like picking blackberries or walking the coast path should be celebrated more. It’s what makes us feel alive.”

All of which sums up his outlook on life. Now he spends his time writing articles about VWs, camping, food, fun and simple pleasures, and producing material for clients of his thriving digital, advertising and marketing Copy Monkey company, which is based in North Devon and has clients across the South West, UK and Ireland. Not to mention surfing and generally enjoying life wherever and whenever possible.

So how did Martin fall in love with Devon and Cornwall, and come to enjoy what to many must seem a dream existence?

He explains: “I have only had conventional jobs for about five years.

“I was born in Chalfont St Giles and was brought up in Buckinghamshire. When I was seven or eight, my family went to Bantham on holiday. I saw people surfing and thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen.”

He was bitten by the surfing bug. But first he went to college in Manchester to do a film production degree course. Still surfing at weekends in the North West, he graduated in 1989 and went to work in the film production industry in London as a runner in Soho.

Fed-up with life in London, he came to Cornwall and spent a summer working in a surf shop in St Ives, but went back after the season ended.

He returned to film production, which saw him end up travelling the world filming and making documentaries, and interviewing among many others Hollywood legends Lauren Bacall – “She was absolutely charming, a warm and funny human being” – and Kirk Douglas: “Interviewing him, that was awesome.”

Martin said: “It was amazing, a brilliant career to have, but pretty precarious.

“You worked really hard, then you took time off. I have this attitude that I would work extremely hard, then save up the points for when I was not working.

“It is about working really hard in order to have the things you want: namely freedom.

“I used to work all year, then the film industry would go quiet in December and January. That’s when I would go travelling.

“I did one job where I was working seven days a week for months, then I took several weeks off. It is all about work and reward.”

Finally, in 1996, Martin tired of his hectic lifestyle and took the decision to move from Notting Hill to Bradworthy in Devon.

He recalls: “It’s wild – a great place. I spent some time doing up a house, going to the pub and surfing.

“My wife moved to the South West in 1998, we got married and that’s when I started writing.”

After spells living in Northam, North Devon, and Horns Cross, near Clovelly, the family moved to Bude 18 months ago.

Martin said: “We would always spend time in Bude when we had time off. It’s fantastic.

“Now I run my company, and I am writing a film script. Since my books came out, I have been able to do more of that kind of work. My heart and soul went into those books.

“I was lucky enough to catch the moment with those books and TV show.

“This year I have been writing a series for MMM Magazine about Great British Adventures, which has taken me all over the UK in the name of work.

“We’ve climbed Snowdon, gone caving, ridden the Severn bore, been on Europe’s longest zip wire, cycled half the coast to coast, done stand up paddling, Segwayed and just about everything else. That’s been brilliant!”

So how does Martin like to spend his time off when he is not working?

“I love to get out in the camper van and go surfing, eating well and cooking. It has always been, for me, something that takes me out of everything.

“I enjoy packing a picnic with the kids, going onto a beach and having a surf. I adore St Ives and I love Bude – it’s absolutely brilliant. It has a really nice attitude and lovely people.

“Once you have earned something, you should enjoy it. I love having freedom, fun, simplicity – the good things in life.

“I really love the attitude of people in Devon and Cornwall who have fun and enjoy going to the beach every day. We should never under-estimate the power of that. We must remember how lucky we are to be in this wonderful place.

“My wife is studying nursing in Truro and is working really hard. I am supporting the family through my work. I am enjoying life and we do our best to enjoy time off.

“It’s that work and reward thing again.”

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