He played a farmer for 20 years in Emmerdale , but when Kelvin Fletcher bought his own 120-acre farm he knew nothing about rearing sheep, pigs, goats or alpacas.

With his wife, actress Liz Marsland, and their four young children – Marnie, six, Milo, four, and 17-month-old twins Mateusz and Maximus – Kelvin has started a new life in the Peak District. Their adventures are being filmed for their new ITV1 show Fletcher’s Family Farm .

They’ve had their share of challenges over the last two years – but they couldn’t be happier. “We’ve really been on a journey,” Kelvin says. “We’re not experts by any stretch, but we’re really taking this seriously and we’re enjoying it.”

Even though his Emmerdale character Andy was often seen in muddy overalls lugging bales of hay, Kelvin says the show taught him nothing about farm life.

“I wish it did,” he says. “I once said that what I know about farming you could write on the back of a stamp. I used to love filming those scenes but very rarely were the scenes about farming. The irony is that I played a farmer for 20 years and pretended to be one, and now I’m doing that. It’s just a bit bizarre isn’t it? But there’s no skill set I can transfer.”

They’ll have been on the farm for almost three years at Christmas and although it’s a never-ending responsibility, they love farm life and looking after their animals.

“We’ve got four children, 150 sheep, five goats, 36 pigs, three alpacas with three more coming next week – and a dog and a cat,” smiles Kelvin. “We didn’t really plan to farm. We found ourselves with a few sheep and then it snowballed from there. Everyone always used to tell us, ‘Farming is just a way of life’ and that’s truly the only way to describe it.”

Liz adds, “Farming is a subject that we’re absolutely obsessed with. You can just keep learning about it. It never ends and that’s what we love.”

It’s a way of life that Kelvin and Liz want for their children and they are thrilled at the lessons they’re learning on the farm.

“Farming is representative of life,” explains Kelvin. “You have to be considerate of what’s around you, you have to show great empathy. You’ve got to be reactive to whatever challenges are thrown your way and you need a good, strong work ethic to get you through. Then there is ultimately that sense of family and sense of togetherness. Animals are born, animals are lost and it’s life. Our children are experiencing that now from a very young age and they’re getting a really good understanding.”

As viewers will see, young Marnie proves to be a helpful presence on the farm when the ewes start to give birth.

“Lambing season is such a lovely moment,” says Liz. “You’re getting to see all these lambs being born. The kids love it. Marnie was fully stuck in there pulling lambs out like she’s been doing it all her life. I’ll never get over witnessing all these births and realising how magical and beautiful it is. It’s emotional. You feel connected to these animals.”

Kelvin couldn’t be prouder. “All you ever want to do as parents is create rounded children that are accepting, open-minded and kind,” says Kelvin. “And naturally then, as a father, I want them to be successful at whatever they choose and a good, rounded child will hopefully endeavour to do that.”

Farming is relentless and Liz and Kelvin rarely get a day off. Even on Christmas day, someone must feed the pigs, sheep, alpacas and goats. Understandably, there have been times when Kelvin has felt a very long way from his old life in front of the cameras.

“So many times you think you’ll throw the towel in because it’s just so hard,” he says. “It can be really challenging. You think, ‘Why are you taking all that extra responsibility and work?’ And it’s because there are moments of joy that nothing else has ever given me. It’s just been a bit of a roller coaster.”

The world of show business still calls Kelvin and Liz though. He’s just wrapped scenes on a top-secret period drama, while Liz recently starred in a short film called Ticker . “We’re still actors and parents first and foremost,” says Kelvin. “But now we’re farmers as well.”

For Kelvin, farming life is also about having a simpler, more grounded experience. “Living off the land, understanding nature, being present… it all sounds all very artsy fartsy but you can feel very connected and it resonates with you,” he says. “We’re forever consuming, it’s a million miles an hour. It’s lovely to be at home and live a simpler, more basic life. So that’s what it’s given us.”

When they’re not outside wrangling goats or herding sheep, Liz and Kelvin are relaxing in front of Strictly Come Dancing . Kelvin famously won the series with Oti Mabuse in 2019 and is throwing his support behind Emmerdale star Adam Thomas. Adam, who is partnered with Luba Mushtuk, is a close friend of the family and Kelvin believes he’ll go far.

“It’s got to be Adam all the way for us,” he says. “The only advice I could give him is to be himself. People can’t help but fall in love with him.”

Fletcher’s Family Farm starts on Sunday 15 October at 11.30am on ITV1 and at 7pm on ITVBE

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