Timmy Mallett’s pedal-powered love letter to our seaside glories: How the children’s TV star is biking around Britain with paint brushes in his panniers
- An 80s children’s TV presenter is cycling around the entire coastline of Britain, painting the views as he goes
- Timmy Mallet, 66, now sells his coastal acrylics, watercolours and oil paintings for prices from £250 to £3,250
- He averages around 40 miles a day, having set off in mid-March and he plans to make it back home by July
Along a magnificent, undulating sweep of Cornwall’s coastline an unlikely figure is heading my way: former children’s TV presenter, Timmy Mallett, cycling furiously, his cheeks red from exertion.
Now 66, Mallett is on a 4,000-mile bicycle journey around the UK coastline, capturing its ever-changing scenery and skies along the way in his paintings.
The cycling comes as less of a surprise than his accomplished and really rather wonderful art: after all, this is the man who inspired a generation of 1980s children to hit their siblings over the head with a cushion — re-enacting his word association game Mallett’s Mallet, in which he bopped someone on the head with a giant pink (foam) mallet if they hesitated or got a word wrong.
Complete with a loud shirt and colourful, oversized glasses he was the epitome of ‘zany’, bounding onto our TV screens on the cult Saturday-morning children’s show The Wide Awake Club.
Now it’s Mallett’s Palette, an online gallery through which he sells acrylics, watercolours and oil paintings from £250 to £3,250. ‘I see painting as part and parcel of what I am and what I do,’ he says.
He is still recognisable from his TV days — not least because he continues to sport his trademark colourful shirts and glasses. The boyish enthusiasm, deployed to sometimes exhausting effect on TV, is still there, too. ‘Isn’t it wonderful?’ he says, gazing at the vista around him.
Timmy Mallett (pictured) is on a cycling tour of the entire coast of Britain, painting beautiful sceneries from his journey
King’s Gate, Isle of Thanet – He says sometimes he paints while on a break from cycling, other times he takes a photo and paints it later in the evening
Smeaton’s Tower, Plymouth – He was inspired by artists of old to travel around the British coast during lockdown
St Ives, Cornwall – The 80’s children TV star cycles around the coast on an electric bike
Rochester Cathedral and Castle, Kent – He hopes to make it back home to London by the summer
We’re in Cornwall’s windy Widemouth Bay. Timmy has cycled from Tintagel and is about a quarter of the way into his journey following in the footsteps — or tyre tracks —of some the Britain’s most revered artists, hoping to be inspired by the same vistas.
‘You have Constable and Turner, but so many more — a whole host of artists’ colonies all around the shores of Britain,’ he says. ‘So I am heading along the same path to see how much it all inspires me and doing my own paintings along the way.’ Sometimes he paints on the spot during a break from cycling. On other occasions he takes photographs, then works from them in the evening.
His efforts so far are all rather lovely: from the oast houses of Kent, to the majestic and isolated splendour of Cornwall’s St Michael’s Mount, via coastal views of marinas, cliffs and beaches.
Born in Cheshire, the youngest of three boys, Mallett’s love of art was inspired by his father Michael, who worked in advertising before joining the clergy. ‘Dad was always keen on art. He taught us to use our eyes and to paint what you see, not what you know,’ recalls Timmy. It clearly worked, given that one of his brothers is a fine artist, based in Cornwall.
Timmy himself studied history at Warwick University, where he kick-started his media career by working on the student radio station.
He now runs a production company and has appeared in assorted reality TV shows, including I’m A Celebrity in 2008. His wife Lynda, an Australian he met when touring there with his Wacaday show in 1989, runs the admin side of his entertainment business from their home in Berkshire.
St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall – He says people shouting encouragement from their cars helps him keep going
Gosport Hampshire looking towards the Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth
Shoreham Church, West Sussex – his paintings are up for sale on his website: www.mallettspallette.co.uk
‘Bringing home the catch’, Mevagissey Cornwall – Timmy says that painting is ‘part and parcel’ of who he is
Art is a thread that has run throughout his life: he painted between breaks in filming when he worked in TV and takes to his easel most days at his home studio.
During lockdown, he filmed himself painting, sharing the results online and eventually coming up with the idea of this grand tour. ‘A lot of my art is driven by seasons and the changing quality of the light in different locations,’ he says.
‘I thought to myself, “Hang on a second, we can’t go travelling overseas at the moment, so why not do what other artists did 200 years ago and travel here instead?”’
He is averaging 40 miles a day, having set off from Paddington Station in mid-March. He plans to take in Wales, the Scottish Highlands and the East Coast before arriving back in London in July.
Does he ever feel he’s bitten off more than he can chew? Though he’s in decent shape and is riding an e-bike, cycling that distance is no mean feat: ‘I certainly felt that way today when I woke up. But that’s when people passing by in their vehicles shouting encouragement really helps,’ he says. ‘And those lovely views of course.’
With that he clambers back onto his bike, heading for the hopefully forgiving hilly terrain of Devon, where an evening of painting and ‘washing his smalls’ awaits. Is he ever tempted to hop into a taxi? ‘Absolutely not,’ he insists.
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