This time last weekend we were climbing up the Joules Camera Tower at Countryfile Live to survey the full extent of the country show. The view from the top allowed us to survey the 13 distinct different zones that varied from ‘Explore Britain’ to ‘Farming in Action’, we realised we still had quite some area to cover!
This was the first ever Countryfile Live held at Blenheim Palace and unfortunately, like many new events, traffic chaos ensued on the opening day causing tailbacks through Woodstock area. Over the four days, the team straightened things out and plenty of visitors arrived and left with no hassle at all. I think our rooky mistake was aiming to arrive just after 9.30am on the final day, which meant we got stuck in standstill traffic for the best part of two hours…
We arrived in splendid weather just before lunch and headed straight for the Food Market where a host of the usual festival favourites was drawing in the crowds. The Game Chef’s Southern Fried Pheasant caught our eyes and we’d wolfed down a burger and pheasant goujons before I even had time to take a photo!
In many respects Countryfile Live has a traditional country show feel with a mixture of retail outlets and arenas with horse and dog displays. If I’m honest Tom and I were definitely taking a ‘play it by ear’ approach to our visit, rather than having a mapped out itinerary – this was partially down to the fact that we were picking up our tickets on the door rather than having them in advance. This meant that we were too late to book tickets for any of the Countryfile Live shows in the Main Arena or the talks in National Trust Theatre.
Having said that we certainly didn’t feel too hard done by, there was so much to take in, we could easily have spent another day visiting. There were over five retail tents selling art, crafts, home wares, gifts. In the Food Heroes tent, we were really pleased to meet Mama Nonya herself at the Nonya Secrets Stall.
If you read our Feastival post last year, you’ll know we’ve fallen in love with their range of sources and have been buying them as Christmas presents for every foodie friend we know. In total, there were over 700 retail outlets to peruse and I think Tom ate literally every sample from every cheese dealer going!
It was fun to see the elements of programme woven into the show, with street names and zones named after the presenters – Tom enjoyed a pint at the Craven Arms Pub! In 2001 Countryfile held a contest to find a new presenter.
Many hundred of viewers sent in videos they’d made on all aspects rural life and the finalists spent the weekend filming short segments for broadcast on the show – the winner was Adam Henson. His Cotswold Farm Park set up for the weekend, bringing animals from the farm including an adorable long haired highland calf. There were plenty of people cooing over the chicks, ducks, bunnies, calves and sheep.
Now although we live in the ‘country’ and getting stuck behind a tractor is a daily occurrence, it is not often we stop to admire the sheer magnitude and brilliance of this machinery. In the Farming in Action Zone, the mightiest of beasts stood gleaming for all to gawk and wonder out, whilst in the arena a number of different types of machinery were being demonstrated.
When we walked around, a tractor and team were baling hay whilst another pair revved up an ancient log saw to cut 2 inch thick discs. (I said to Tom that we should have bought one as a wedding cake stand, but he wasn’t keen on carrying it around the rest of the day. :-p)
We didn’t quite make it on to the vintage Fairground as we’d spent too long browsing the Great British Ice Cream Parlour. Writing up my blog post, we pretty much spent the day eating and shopping, which is what we’re likely to do if we don’t have a full on plan. But it was lovely to just drift between the rows soaking up the atmosphere and the sun.
We would definitely head back next year, and this time, be a bit more prepared – book tickets for the main show, study the show guide in a bit more detail and visit the horse or dog arena and some of the many others stages on offer.
We were kindly invited to the show by Blacks who were sponsoring the ‘Explore Britain’ zone and hosted a number of great talks – including one on Nordic walking, which we caught the tail end of. Of course, all opinions our own!