Charlie Dimmock

\"It is rather ridiculous that a woman doing manual work is still seen as something to make a fuss about,\" says Charlie Dimmock, pre-Raphaelite angel of gardening programmes. \"It's clear from the people who come into the [garden] centre that it's the women who do the gardening. The husbands may mow the lawn, but it's the women who do the planting, the digging, the weeding and all the real work that goes into making a garden.\"

Charlotte Elouise Dimmock was born on August 10, 1966, in Romsey, Hampshire, the only child of Terry, a merchant seaman, and Sue, who ran her own clothes shop. Growing up in the New Forest, in a pink cottage with red shutters, she spent most of her time with her best friend Tracey, romping about the woods, \\\"getting caked in mud and teasing the life out of Tracey's little brother\\\".

Despite its unconventionality being kept up by her parents' wild parties, and her mother calling her \\\"The Brat\\\" until she was 18 months old Charlie's childhood was a happy one and revolved around a strong family life. She was spoiled by her dad and spent a lot of time with her grandfather helping him in the family vegetable garden.

\\\"He was pleased and rather proud,\\\" she recalls, when she graduated from horticultural college instead of the forensic science course she had initially planned. After college Charlie joined Romsey Garden Centre where she worked to save money to travel. She travelled extensively in the early Nineties before returning to Romsey and settling down with John Mushet, a viticulturalist she met while travelling in New Zealand.

She returned to work at Romsey Garden Centre and it was there that she was spotted by TV producer John Thornicroft, who was searching for water plants. In 1992, when he needed someone to do a water feature for a gardening programme Thornicroft thought of Charlie, but it wasn't until early 1997 that he came calling about a possible slot on Ground Force.

The statuesque, bra-less Amazon's role alongside Alan Titchmarsh and Tommy Walsh on the garden make-over show catapulted her into the limelight, making Charlie a household name and the focus of many a male gardener's fantasies overnight. It also led to a series of lucrative spin-offs including a book, a calendar and a garden gnome.

Although her partner John referred to her as \\\"the missus\\\", the pair were never married and split in 2001 after Charlie had a fling with Ground Force microphone operator Andy Simmons. That liaison quickly faltered, however, and Charlie went on to have a relationship with another member of the programme's crew, sound technician Barry Smith.

With her face and name now synonymous with gardening in the UK, Charlie branched out into the US where she presented a gardening slot on a CBS breakfast show.

The same year, however, her mother and step-father tragically died in the Asian tsunami, and Charlie turned down work as she learned to cope with her loss - keeping a low profile until 2006, when she decided to take part in Celebrity Masterchef.

Having always been a fan of the great outdoors, the red head began presenting a series called River Walks - in which she visits people and landmarks along the banks of different rivers in Southern England. The show began its third series in January 2008. Her soaring TV career hasn't changed her though, she insists. And the flame-haired gardener's aspirations remain firmly grounded. \\\"To grow old, I guess. Become a dotty old dear and potter around the garden… It's probably easier to achieve than most ambitions.\\\"
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