Springwatch presenter Iolo Williams

Winterwatch star Iolo Williams: The LGBTQ+ icon survived heart attack and had to walk six miles for help

The BBC star is a household name in Wales

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It’s cold, it’s a bit damp, and the nights feel loooong, which must mean Winterwatch is back on our screens – and popular presenter Iolo Williams returns to front it.

The Welsh nature lover has become a favourite with UK viewers, and with good reason. But what else has he been in over the years? How did he get into television, and is he married?

Iolo recently suffered a terrifying heart attack, which left him stranded and alone. Here’s everything you need to know.

Iolo Williams alongside his Winterwatch co-stars Chris Packham and Gillian Burke (Credit: BBC)

Who is Winterwatch presenter Iolo Williams?

Iolo is a ornithologist-turned-TV presenter from Builth Wells in Wales. While Welsh is his first language, he’s also fluent in English. He’s best known for his wildlife shows on the BBC and Welsh broadcaster S4C.

In 2007, he was awarded an honorary fellowship of the Bangor University. Iolo worked for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) for 14 years before he got his first taste of TV presenting.

The TV star also once revealed he was stunned to find out he’s got a big following in the LGBTQ+ community. He is known for frequently wearing shorts at work and has, as a result, caught the attention of some male viewers.

In 2008, he told Wales Online: “A friend of mine, a girl who lives in Newport, told me about one of her mates who is gay, and said they have an informal gay club.

“One thing they did was tape my S4C programmes wearing my tight shorts and would get together in a bar to watch it. I was a little bit surprised at first, but absolutely delighted. If they all watched my programmes it would probably double my audience!” So long as that’s the only thing that’s growing Iolo!

How old is Iolo Williams, and where is he from?

Iolo Tudur Williams was born on August 22, 1962, in Builth Wells, Breconshire, Wales.

He is currently 61 years of age.

His family moved to Pembrokeshire, before moving to Montgomeryshire, when he was aged five. Iolo and his family then lived in Llanwddyn near Lake Vyrnwy. He attended Llanfyllin High School, and went on to gain two A-Levels in Biology and French.

Iolo considered joining the British Army, but instead went to the North East London Polytechnic (now the University of East London), graduating with a degree in Ecology.

Iolo Williams presents Winterwatch on BBC One
Iolo Williams presents Winterwatch 2024 on BBC One (Credit: BBC Studios/Jo Charlesworth)

Is Iolo Williams married and does he have children?

Iolo Williams is married to his wife, Ceri Williams, and they live together near the town of Newtown, Powys.

The couple share two children together; Dewi and Tomos. They also own two rescue dogs, Ianto and Gwen, who have both appeared in some of his television series.

Iolo Williams and his wife built a fully-insulated timber-framed home and, no surprises here, have their very own wildlife garden. They grow their own vegetables, compost all their food waste, and recycle everything else. They also claim to eat organic and local produce.

What else has the TV star presented?

Iolo has been on TV for more than two decades. He currently stars on Winterwatch and all of its seasonal spin-offs. In Wales, he also fronts his own shows Great Welsh Parks, Wild Wales, and A Wild Life.

In 2011, he hosted documentary series The Secret Life of Birds. He’s also made numerous appearances on The One Show. In 2022, he also presented The Last Wilderness of Wales. A year later, he fronted Iolo’s Borderlands.

Humourously, he also played The Twitcher in the children’s show Rocket’s Island in 2014.

Iolo Williams talking
Iolo suffered a heart attack in the countryside (Credit: YouTube)

Winterwatch star Iolo Williams furious by I’m A Celebrity

Presenter Iolo Williams complained about the release of non-native wildlife into the Welsh countryside after I’m A Celebrity was filmed in Waled during Covid.

He said that cockroaches, maggots, spiders and worms could wreck the habitat which surrounds Gwrych Castle in north Wales, the venue for the show during the pandemic.

Police launched an investigation after his complaints.

Iolo described it as “madness” to pour thousands of cockroaches onto a contestant because there was no hope of retrieving every one of them.

He said: “I’m not sure which species they’re releasing, but I can tell you they’re not native. We don’t have those cockroaches here in the UK and we certainly don’t have them in north Wales.

“There are going to be cockroaches in every nook and cranny along their bodies, you’re going to tell me that every single one of those is found immediately? Of course it’s not.”

Mr Williams told The Guardian that “cockroaches are the ultimate survivors” and feared they would survive in north Wales and escape into the wild.

Iolo suffered heart attack and ‘saved his own life’

In 2023, Iolo Williams was forced to save his own life during a terrifying incident in the countryside.

The nature expert suffered a heart attack while out on a jog. However, he didn’t have his phone on him so he was unable to contact anyone. To make things worse, Iolo was roughly six miles away from his car when it happened.

The presenter told the Mirror that the heart attack “came like a bolt out of the blue”, explaining he felt “intense pain under my sternum”.

Due to his car being so far away, Iolo had to deal with the pain while walking back to his vehicle. Despite struggling to get back to his car, he knew it would be harder to get help if he remained where he was. When his heart condition got worse he would crouch down and recuperate.

When Iolo finally made it to his car, he phoned for an ambulance and had to wait 90 minutes for them to reach him. His wife, Ceri, came down and drove him to the hospital where he was in the hands of the NHS, who Iolo said was “superb”.

He explained: “The doctors were as mystified as I am. I’m not overweight. I’ve never smoked. I’m a social drinker. So it must have been some kind of fault that was in me anyway. But then why didn’t it manifest itself earlier? I just don’t know.”

Iolo Williams with Michaela Strachan, Gillian Burke, and Chris Packham
Iolo Williams with Winterwatch co-stars Michaela Strachan, Gillian Burke, and Chris Packham (Credit: BBC Studios/Jo Charlesworth)

Iolo suffered another unexpected collapse

After having a stent fitted, Iolo started to film a new Springwatch series for BBC Wales. However, he suffered another unexpected collapse when he was about to drive to the location.

While in the passenger seat, he struggled to put his seatbelt on. Unable to communicate, he was rushed to the hospital nearby where they “injected some high-level aspirin in liquid form”.

The injection left him unable to speak for days, which doctors said was because of a clot in his bloodstream.

Iolo stated that “luckily, the NHS jumped into action again” and he was able to use his right arm after a couple of hours. However, his speech wouldn’t return for another four or five days. Fortunately, there have been no long-term effects.

Iolo described the experience as “an out-of-body experience” and “scary” and knew it similarly impacted his family.

Read more: Springwatch star Michaela Strachan accused of ‘trolling’ Holly Willoughby over This Morning statement

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Winterwatch returns on Tuesday, January 16, 2024 at 8pm on BBC Two.

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