HE never got the chance to play James Bond.

But Ranulph Fiennes – who was rejected to play 007 by Cubby Broccoli in the 70s for having ‘a face like a farmer’ – has more in common with the British Secret Service agent than you might think.

Like Bond, his life has been one of adventure, death defying feats and closely guarded secrets.

The 75-year-old was named by the Guinness Book of Records as ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’.

He has walked unaided to the north pole, discovered a lost city in Oman and led the only expedition to circumnavigate the globe by land via both poles.

Ranulph’s extreme adventures have been well documented over 50 years so where does the secretive aspect come into it?

Weekend found out when we asked him about any current expeditions he is planning. The conversation did not last very long.

He said: “We have a policy of not talking about expeditions which are yet to take place for various reasons. One of which is we have rivals who listen in and they nearly always come from a certain part of Scandinavia.

“Competitive mountain climbers want to be the first and there are thousands of unclimbed mountains still.”

Ask him about any adventure that is done and dusted and it is another matter entirely.

Ranulph is only too happy to talk – but where do you even start when you have half a century of exploits to choose from?

Well Ranulph recently went back to the beginning when he recreated his famed 1969 expedition along the River Nile with his cousin, actor Joseph Fiennes, for National Geographic’s series Egypt With The World’s Greatest Explorer. That’s good enough for us.

Winsford Guardian:

He added: “He took a break from The Handmaid’s Tale to join me. He was very calm and not fazed by bad things happening that weren’t meant to happen.

“There was a guy who towed our vehicles out of very soft sand but after helping us out he didn’t fix a steel rope back in place properly on Joe’s vehicle.

“We were going about 60mph on a straight tarmac road through sand dunes. The tarmac had been built up slightly above the sand and on both sides, there was a ditch.

“It was rather like in the UK where you might have a ditch with water in it on either side of a farm lane.

“Well this was just a 4ft drop on both sides. Suddenly the steel rope wrapped itself around Joe’s front left-hand wheel.

“If that wheel had been ripped apart at 60mph you can imagine the vehicle would slew off the road which it did do.

“I braked like hell. I was in another Land Rover somewhere behind him. I came to a halt. I rushed out to see if he’d gone through the window.

“But no, he was ok – he was a bit surprised but he took it very well.

“There was another moment when we had to get over big dunes. You have to go at 70mph to get over the top. If you do you won’t get stuck in the sand on the way up.

“But when you are at the top you’ll go straight down the other side so the moment of braking mustn’t be too soon or too late.

“Joe had obviously never done it before and he actually took off. I was in the vehicle beside him and again he was as cool as a cucumber.”

There must be something in Fiennes blood because he too has never been fazed. After travelling to every corner of the globe, little would surprise him now but take his first expedition for example.

He got his taste for seeing the world after leading adventure training for Scottish soldiers in Germany during the Cold War.

So after he left the Army he went from canoeing and skiing to parachuting onto the largest glacier in Europe in Norway to help with some mapping work – even though he has a fear of heights.

Ranulph said: “I used to get vertigo so I used to close my eyes when jumping which was forbidden by the sergeant major.

“Back then parachutes didn’t open themselves. You had to count to 15 as you dropped and I found that very alarming and then as you do open your eyes you have to start steering it otherwise you go over the top of the 6,000ft glacier and down the cliffs and then the thermal winds will collapse the parachute.

“We were very lucky to have an SAS expert with us for that. That gave me confidence but I made sure there was no more parachuting on any future trips.”

Ranulph’s fear of heights is such that if leaves need clearing out of the gutter he sends his wife up and holds the ladder.

It makes his accomplishments like conquering the 29,029 ft Everest when he was 65 all the more remarkable. Of course, he takes it all in his stride though.

Ranulph added: “On Everest you couldn’t see any drop. I think people think of Everest where you look down and there’s a big drop but on the standard route there aren’t any drops except the bit you do at night so you can’t see the Hillary Step

“So actually doing Everest didn’t cause vertigo.”

Ranulph Fiennes will present Living Dangerously at Statham Lodge Hotel for Lymm Festival on June 24 and at Parr Hall on October 31. The Lymm date is sold out. To enquire about returns call 752204.