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 back home in the UK, about to start previewing his latest stage show, All Over the Place, which arrives in Colchester at the end of the month.

The comedian says 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!’’ says Griff. “It was easier to get to the airport.’’

Wearing his TV presenter hat, Griff starred in 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,” he adds, “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.

He says: “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 of 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.’’

Griff lives just across the Essex border 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,’’ says 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.’’

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,” he explains, “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.”

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,’’ he says.

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 Alas Smith and Jones, the comedy sci-fi movie Morons From Outer Space, Wilt and The Smith and Jones Sketchbook.

Griff says: “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.”

Griff is back at the Colchester Arts Centre previewing new material for his forthcoming stand-up tour.

Following sell-out performances of his previous one-man entertainments ‘Jones and Smith’ and ‘Where Was I?’ and a hugely-acclaimed tour of Australia and New Zealand, it’s time to join one half of Smith & Jones, one quarter of Not the Nine O’Clock News and one third of Three Men In a Boat as he presents an evening of hilarious true stories, riffs, observations and details of his recent medical procedures.

His show at the Church Street venue takes place on July 31 and is already a sell out, but if you want to be on the list for returns then call the arts centre box office on 01206 500900.