TV antiques expert Kate Bliss
13:45 18 May 2010
Placing a high value onHerefordshire
A regular face on TV as an antiques advisor and expert, Kate Bliss also cherishes and admires the fine qualities and beauty of her home county
Herefordshire is a good hunting ground for antiques as the county is full of beautiful houses. Although that said it may be the most humble place youll find something, one mans rubbish is another mans treasure, in a way, but there are also lots of antique centres and shops that are favourite haunts of mine.
Herefordshire born and bred, Kate Bliss feels strongly about her home roots and so was honoured when asked to be one of the countys Ambassadors by Visit Herefordshire. She is already helping to draw some attention to the county on national TV through her oeuvre. With another series of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is currently running on BBC 1, in which Kate steps out of her customary shoes as an agent and auctioneer into those of an antiques dealer, the TV cameras follow her in a quest to make as much profit as she can from antique sales for a charitable cause, in the process visiting many of Herefordshires antique hot spots. I wanted to help promote local antique centres and businesses. We filmed a lot around Hay-on-Wye and Leominster and Ledbury, so it was great to film with my contacts and I could show the viewer a little bit about my favourite haunts and places to go.
A self-confessed antiques fanatic even in my free time Ill mooch around junk shops; I think its just in the blood Kates passion is shared by her husband, Jonathan, who she met while working at Brightwells Auctioneers and Valuers. Jonathan has a very good eye for antiques and on holiday well often duck into a local auction house or junk shop and walk out with something we really dont need, she admits.
Now living on the banks of the Wye with their children, Lily, who is coming up to four, and Ben (two this month), Kate, 35, has happy memories of growing up in Hampton Bishop and then Dorstone at the head of the Golden Valley. The former Hereford Cathedral pupil left the county for three short years to study English Literature at Oxford before moving back to her rural roots where she feels most at home. She is a familiar face at local events and a great supporter of the countys charities, particularly St Michaelss Hospice, and the Alzheimers Society, as her grandmother is a sufferer.
Immersed in antiques from an early age while helping in her fathers saleroom, Kate did a stint of work experience at what was then Russell, Baldwin and Bright Auctioneers, where her father had also served his apprenticeship. Bitten by the antiques bug she didnt look back.
I was green to the commercial side of things but it was the love of the objects that attracted me to the business and auction houses are a great place to learn. Youre at the sharp end of the market, handling different things every day and researching them. I love learning about the history and craftsmanship of these beautiful things and you get a real buzz conducting an auction up on the rostrum.
Obtaining her qualification as a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, 10 years ago Kate made her television debut after being spotted by the Bargain Hunt crew when they visited Brightwells auction house to film an episode of the programme, then presented by David Dickinson.
It came completely out of the blue. While at Oxford I thought about going into either fine art or the media and it is quite uncanny how I now combine the two. They had very few female auctioneers on Bargain Hunt at the time, so I suppose they thought I was a bit of a novelty and added a different angle to things, she says.
Learning early on that kitten heels and antiques fairs in boggy fields dont mix, Kate has travelled extensively with her television work. Ive been to some amazing places and met fascinating people, from contestants on the programme to experts in their field. It has broadened my experience and in this business you never stop learning.
Im dumbstruck Bargain Hunt has carried on so long. When I started I thought it may last a couple of months. Tim Wonnacott (the shows current presenter) who is a very good friend of mine, has really helped to keep the viewing figures high and also Flog It! seems to be here to stay.
In 2003 she set up her own antiques and fine art valuation business, Kate Bliss Valuation, based in Hereford, which she combines with her regular television appearances.
When business takes me to other counties and sometimes other countries, I am proud to tell people I am born and bred in Herefordshire. Hertfordshire they usually reply, isnt that where..? But it is the very fact that my county is still relatively unknown that gives Herefordshire its unique charm.
My Herefordshire Life
How do you hope to promote the county in your role as Herefordshire Ambassador?
I meet a lot of people on my travels and they inevitably ask where I come from, so it is easy to explain how lucky I am to live in such a special spot and to encourage people to come here on holiday. Just by visiting as tourists they will be supporting local businesses.
What would you recommend they enjoy while here?
Firstly relax. Then definitely sample some of the fantastic food and drink Herefordshire has to offer. I would recommend Mousetrap Cheese from Monkland Dairy, with shops in Leominster, Hereford and Ludlow. We also have great farm shops such as Oakchurch at Staunton-on-Wye where I used to work as a student in the strawberry fields and it is amazing how it has grown.
What are the best things about the county?
The distinctive red brown soil; friends who come and stay cant believe the richness of the soil and the things that grow here in my vegetable patch.
The River Wye is also a major feature of the county with some of the most breathtaking unspoilt views. For my hen party we canoed down river from Bredwardine.
Also the people. Its a lovely county to belong to and also very welcoming and warm to visitors without being too over the top; theres an honest warmth.
Why is Herefordshire a good place to bring up your children?
Its the rural element. There are so many things a rural community can offer children growing up to get them interested in outdoor pursuits and activities. I want them to appreciate our world. I have grown up with an enormous sense of security and belonging that increases whenever I return. No wonder then, I want my children to grow up with their feet in the same mud.
Have you seen the county change much over the years?
I have seen it change a lot and sometimes not for the better. As an Ambassador I would like to help preserve what makes Herefordshire special and individual but also to encourage growth for the future. What is special here are the small businesses, the market town feeling, the heritage, the Cathedral, the medieval buildings in the city, and I think its incredibly important to preserve and promote that element. However, it is similar to antiques. They may be beautiful and well made but some are completely impractical for today. It is important that Herefordshire also embraces new technology and design and the cosmopolitan feel of a 21st century city.