Why can’t Britain’s most eligible bachelor find love? He’s the dashing former Army officer-turned- top author and TV adventurer. But, still single at 39, Levison Wood has now joined the online dating merry-go-round. The only catch? Women never believe it’s really him!

  • Levison Wood, 39, who lives in South-West London, left the Army in 2010
  • Has since had nine bestselling books and makes TV adventure documentaries 
  • Reveals he has been living a frugal life because he hasn’t been paid in 12 months
  • Singleton says he used dating websites when lockdown rules permitted 

To meet Levison Wood is hugely exciting — and not just because having tea and pink wafer biscuits with a handsome Army officer is my idea of heaven.

It is also that he has written a book about leadership and crisis situations; things that are terribly important to someone like me, someone who yearns to shout at men and be in command. Soldier, atten-shun! Present teacups!

‘No, you shouldn’t need to shout at people,’ he says gently. ‘If you are shouting, you are probably not doing your job properly.’ Oh. ‘People should want to follow you because they trust you,’ he explains. ‘Although there is a difference between leadership and command.’

So what would he do if an armed gang burst in here and tried to take the most beautiful woman in the room, i.e. me, hostage?

Levison Wood, 39, (pictured) who lives in South-West London, is a former Parachute Regiment captain turned-adventurer, explorer and sex symbol

‘I always carry a packet of cigarettes with me,’ he begins, which is disappointing for a hostage hoping to hear the words ‘sweep you into my arms’ or even a fevered cry of ‘just one last kiss’.

‘And,’ he continues, oblivious, ‘I would distract them with that.’

When making a television documentary in South Sudan, in 2013, Levison actually was taken hostage at gunpoint by a local militia. So what was his strategy then?

‘You have to humanise yourself. Find some empathy, find a connection, find some common ground. Most gunmen like to have a cigarette, so you have a packet at the ready. Offer them around, look the men in the eye. When that connection is there, they are far less likely to shoot you. That is my experience, at any rate.’

So, do you have a packet of cigarettes on you now?

‘No.’

Oh.

‘Well, I don’t think we are likely to get shot here in Fulham, but you never know.’

We meet in a photographic studio in West London, where Levison is courteous to a fault; remembering everyone’s name, pouring the tea, proffering biscuits. ‘My personal bugbear,’ he says, ‘is inconsideration to others.’

He left the Army in 2010 but joined the Reserves two years later, so technically he remains a soldier.

Levison said he had to move home because of a stalker who threatened his family and ignored police restraining orders. Pictured: filming walking with elephants

Although he now makes a living from writing award-winning travel books (he has nine bestsellers to his name) and making television adventure documentaries, he still has that officer’s poise, both physical and mental, which allows them to operate on a level somewhere above mere charm and into the realms of assumed dominion.

I suppose this is because they have to win the room and all the hearts and minds in it, because one day their lives may depend on it. Or am I overthinking this?

Perhaps Levison, 39, is just a nice guy with good manners and a gift for accidental innuendoes that must have had the squaddies in fits, way back when.

Today he is wearing what he calls his ‘double-denim’ shirt and trousers, with a Belstaff bike jacket and motorbike boots. ‘I like to keep my rides to within two hours, otherwise it starts to get a bit dull and wet,’ he says.

Indeed.

He also likes to paramotor, a hobby that is a form of powered paragliding in which ‘I basically strap a lawn mower engine to my back — very James Bond’. And he drives a gorgeous 1974 silver Porsche. ‘The car is purely for summer fun,’ he says.

For the babes!

‘Well, it’s not my Tesco runaround, let’s put it that way.’

Lockdown has been hard for millions of people, and one of them is Levison Wood.

Levison (pictured) said the lockdown puppy he bought to keep him company, sadly caught a parasite and died in December 

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: ‘What hardship can this former Parachute Regiment captain-turned-adventurer, explorer and sex symbol (‘Thank you! I’ll take that. Nobody has called me a sex symbol since 2016.’) possibly have suffered during the pandemic?’ And the answer is, quite a lot, actually.

For a start, he had to move home because of a stalker who threatened his family, ignored police restraining orders and ended up in jail. ‘Although she is out now,’ he notes. ‘I hope it doesn’t flare up again but you never know, do you?’

She once slept on a bench in Battersea Park, hoping to catch him on his early morning run. She would turn up at his home, which forced him to put it on the market.

‘It is very sad for the individual concerned. You feel a level of empathy, you want them to get help, but it’s difficult when it crosses the line. Especially when she was sending messages to my family and girlfriends.

‘It gets weird. Uncomfortable. Someone who believes you caught their eye at a public event and that you have a connection.’

Then he bought a lockdown puppy to keep him company; a Ridgeback called Byron. Sadly, it caught a parasite called lungworm and died in December.

‘I cried my eyes out,’ says the former Captain Wood, who served in Afghanistan for four years and was embedded with Iraqi troops fighting Isis while on a documentary expedition to the Arabian Peninsula in 2017.

‘I don’t have children and I’m not suggesting it is necessarily the same, but this dog came into my life and, actually, for me, he was my child. It was really sad. He taught me a lot about companionship and love, and he was a great little dog.’

During that same month, he broke his ankle when paramotoring. ‘To be honest,’ he sighs, ‘it was a pretty s*** Christmas.’ In addition, his income dried up when all his expeditions and TV shows were cancelled because of the pandemic.

Levison (pictured) said he has been living off his savings because he hasn’t been paid in 12 months and lost a lot of money 

‘I know that people have had it worse than me, but I have lost a lot of money. I haven’t been paid in 12 months and have been living off my savings. It has been tough. Hopefully I can soon get out there and start making some TV again.’

But he didn’t sit around doing nothing. Last year, Levison volunteered for Re:Act, a disaster-response charity which uses military veterans and responders with blue-light experience to help with difficult jobs in times of national duress.

During the worst days of the pandemic, he worked at a temporary mortuary near Heathrow Airport. ‘It was quite shocking, dealing with the numbers that were coming in. Quite full-on,’ he says.

In his private life, he has never been one to ‘court the limelight’ or go to ‘fancy parties’, so much of his lockdown has been spent alone at his home in South-West London.

With no money coming in, he has been living a frugal life; eating homemade stir-fries and steamed vegetables, doing the occasional vegan detox. He doesn’t watch TV, only enjoys films on planes and rarely reads novels, although he has just finished ‘a gloomy Portuguese one about a plague’.

There has also been ‘intermittent fasting, lots of yoga, lots of meditation and learning the art of patience.’

Levison (pictured) said he used dating websites to meet girls, when lockdown rules permitted but a lot thought he was a catfish 

That all sounds very monk-like.

‘Not entirely monkish,’ he says, rather roguishly.

When lockdown rules permitted, he used dating websites to meet girls because, as he says with a shrug, what else can a man do?

‘I used dating apps; I don’t see a problem with it. I use them when I want to use them. That is how people meet these days, isn’t it? How else can you meet women in lockdown?’

It also provided him with a nice opportunity to meet dates who were ‘outside my regular circle, a bit different to myself, from a different background’.

Because you know what? He doesn’t have a type.

‘I don’t like to put people into boxes. No, I wouldn’t say I have a type at all. If a woman is intelligent, interesting, fun. That is the basis, really. I don’t really care what job they do or anything like that. It is all about being comfortable in somebody’s company and enjoying spending time with them.’

One can only imagine how these women must have felt when the dashing Levison roared round in his vintage Porsche or dropped in on his paramotor like the Milk Tray man, with the sands of Araby on his motorbike boots and still hurting a little inside because his puppy had just died. I mean, the drenching romance of it all!

Levison (pictured) who has walked the length of the Nile and through the Himalayas, declared in 2018 that his next major expedition was going to be a ‘wife hunt’

Did they even believe it was really him?

‘Well, no. Not always. I think a lot of them thought it was a catfish,’ he says.

I bet they did. Catfishing is a term for pretending to be someone else online, using fake photos or identities to find romantic partners. The joke is that there are plenty of fake Levison Woods searching for love across the internet, yet here is the real one, doing the same thing.

‘I don’t play up to that. I don’t let on what I do in my profile. I just say, “Hi, I am Lev. I am currently single, I live on my own and I would like to meet the right person”. ’

In the past ten years, his expeditions and adventures have included walking the length of the Nile, through the Himalayas, across the Darien Gap in the Americas and crossing Madagascar on foot.

He has lived on maggot stews and bush rat, and nearly died when his Jeep went over a cliff in Nepal. Danger is never far away.

‘I once woke up with a snake in my tent,’ he says. But metaphorically speaking, haven’t we all?

Anyway, not much of this seems conducive to settling down, even if he did declare in 2018 that his next major expedition was going to be a ‘wife hunt’.

His longest relationship lasted ten years but it was long-distance. ‘So that was tricky,’ he says.

Levison (pictured) said he didn’t have a girlfriend until the age of 18, as a teenager he was spotty and skinny 

In his book Walking The Americas, he writes of a Mexican girlfriend, Ceci, ‘who showed me the wonders of the Yucatan’.

Yet most of his girlfriends seem to be where he is not, which has made him a diligent and ardent correspondent.

‘I have written plenty of love letters in my time. Usually on a piece of headed notepaper from a hotel. Far more romantic than an email. I think if I was feeling particularly inspired and loving, I could probably knock one out in ten minutes.’

Indeed.

Although he is clearly now a babe magnet, online and elsewhere, Levison says he wasn’t always handsome. ‘I was a skinny, spotty teenager. I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was 18.

‘I would ask girls out and they would say no. Then I went travelling and got some interesting stories to compensate for my pimples. It was going away travelling that gave me confidence.’

His youthful wandering was inspired by the books he read growing up in Staffordshire, encouraged by his parents, who are both teachers.

‘I knew from the age of 11 what I wanted to do with my life and I feel very fortunate in that.’

Levison (pictured) who recently spent more than £106,000 for a vast expanse where wild horses roam free, says he wants to build a ‘high-end luxury retreat centre’

Classics such as Homer’s Odyssey, The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings fired his imagination, while books on explorers such as Scott, Livingstone and Shackleton cemented his future. That is one reason why he has become so involved with the campaign Race for Reading, run by the charity Schoolreaders, which aims to boost child literacy, a subject he is passionate about.

‘Being able to read is the root and foundation for a child’s future. It can have so many consequences in terms of your ability to communicate. If you are behind in the early stages, you are at a disadvantage,’ he says.

And what is written in his own future? For a man who is an adventurer, a buckler of swashes and a blazer of trails, one can see how lockdown has been his biggest challenge to date. How he yearns to get back into the wide blue yonder, to where there are huge skies and no horizons.

‘I much prefer heat to cold, so give me a desert over the Poles any day,’ he says.

He has just bought a 320-acre ranch in Colorado, spending more than £106,000 for a vast expanse where wild horses and deer roam free and which includes sacred native lands.

He wants to build a ‘high-end luxury retreat centre’, a venture where people can come and learn exploration, holistic and survival skills. If there is a class called Shouting At Men, sign me up.

Anyway, all this might explain a cryptic tweet he recently sent out to his 75,000 followers. ‘Do I know anyone who speaks Navajo?’ he wondered.

That wasn’t a catfish, either.

For more on the Race For Reading campaign, visit raceforreading.org

The Art of Exploration, by Levison Wood (£16.99, Hodder). To order a copy for £15.12, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £20. Promotional price valid until 30/06/2021.

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