IT’S the freedom of the open road, the wind in his hair and the call of the wild that entices Griff Rhys Jones to begin new adventures on trains, boats, up mountains and down rivers.

Griff is currently back home in the UK, and thanks to huge demand for his latest stand-up show, Where Was I? he is dashing out on an extension of his latest tour, which includes a date in Swindon.

The comedian says that he gets special access when travelling with TV crews, and he enjoys it a lot, because when he was a child no-one travelled much, certainly not to go to Australia for a holiday.

“It is very different today. Last year my daughter said she couldn’t come for Christmas because Suffolk was too far to go, so she went to Thailand!’’ said Griff. “It was easier to get to the airport!’’

Wearing his TV presenter hat, Griff took on such shows as Three Men In A Boat alongside Dara O Briain and Rory McGrath. He also fronted documentaries such as Greatest Cities Of The World, Rivers with Griff Rhys Jones and the series Mountain.

“It was an exciting thing to go travelling but everywhere we tried Michael Palin had already been there! The producers searched around for somewhere for me, and they came up with the Mountain series.

“I told them they were crazy but they said: ‘You’ll be our mountain virgin.’ There was huge danger climbing these mountains, and they said if you fall off that’s terrific, lots of jeopardy. I was encouraged to do dangerous things.’’

One of Griff’s favourites was Slow Train Through Africa for ITV, taking in life on and off the trains.

“That was an amazing journey. I had talks with high high ups who said they wanted no pollution and no misery - in Africa!

“But I met such incredible, optimistic, people. It was terrific, unbelievable. Lots lions and elephants and travelling on some of the most dangerous trains. It is a celebration of being in your 60s, when you can go where you like,’’ he said.

Griff lives in Suffolk and has affection for the River Stour. He says it is a quiet river that you can canoe down, one of the wildest places in Britain.

In 2007 he was made vice president of the River Stour Trust, dedicated to its conservation.

“You are transported into another world,’’ said Griff, who has always loved boats and remembers sailing with his father when he was growing up in Essex.

“It makes you think about lost roots, time and sand slipping through your fingers. There used to be working barges on the river that would carry hay to London for the 600,000 working horses waiting for their feed. In return they would produce manure which was carried back by barge. It was a green system,’’ said Griff.

The comedian’s father, Elwyn Rhys Jones, was a doctor and served in Burma during the war with the Gold Coast Regiment. Griff presented a documentary about his father’s service for BBC2 called Burma, My Father and the Forgotten Army.

“I wanted an insight into the Burma my Dad had talked about, to understand his stories. I wanted to find out what part he played. It was really moving to go back to Burma and talk about the experiences,’’ said Griff.

The comedy side of Griff began at university when he joined the Cambridge Footlights. He got into TV through his friend from Cambridge, John Lloyd, who was a producer with the BBC comedy sketch shows Not The Nine O’ Clock News.

“Like most comedians I became a writer/performer on the show,’’ said Griff.

His acting career included roles in Casualty, Agatha Christie’s Marple, and the drama series Mine All Mine. His long running partnership with Mel Smith included Alias Smith and Jones, the comedy sci fi movie Morons From Outer Space, Wilt and The Smith and Jones Sketchbook.

“He was like an older brother, it was that sort of relationship we had. I was the one that fretted and Mel took everything in his stride. My first foray into stand-up was about Mel. It was two years ago and I put together a tribute to Mel,’’ said Griff.

Where Was I? is a mix of comedy, observations, anecdotes and reminiscences from Griff at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon on Wednesday July 11. Tickets are £21.50 from 01793 524481 or visit - Flicky Harrison

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