I love going out and about with N. It’s lovely to spend time with him and see how he’s changing over the year. Last year we had a great time at the first ever Countryfile Live show, and again managed to get tickets to return there again this year. For once, there was no moaning from N. Hey, there’s tractors (and fairground rides which is what he was planning for), so there wasn’t a problem having to bargain to get him there with me.
We were lucky enough to have the flexibility to decide on Saturday or Sunday, and with Sunday looking the better weather – ie no showers – the decision was made. The plan was to arrive for just before 9am, to get a parking space early and be there just before opening time at 9.30. Sods law meant we were stuck most of the journey behind some seriously slow drivers and we ended up there just after 9am. Not so bad, and we weren’t parked too far away from the entrance.
I’d hoped to get in a bit early before the rush as press, but after waiting to pick up our wristbands, we found everyone was already going in earlier than the opening time. It did mean no mad queues up to the entrance like last year. It all seemed to work a bit smoother.
I’d been sensible and picked up a map and had checked out the schedule times for the main show and talks early on so I knew the main places I wanted to get to at what time. It turned out planning ahead works well, because there’s less running around like a headless chicken trying to find out what’s going on or having to just randomly turn up to things.Check the website - book ahead for the shows you need tickets for. Plan your day around specific time… Click To Tweet
We got our bearings again and after having to stop to get snacks out of my bag for N who is permanently hungry, headed up to the village green and fairground area via the food tent, and towards the Countryfile Theatre to be in the right place for the first show. We did get pretty distracted by what we were seeing and things N spotted he wanted to check out later, but we weren’t very rushed and were able to still amble around.
N wasn’t too sure which of the fairground rides he wanted to go on. Usually he’s clammering to go on them but he’d spotted the dodgems elsewhere. Unfortunately his legs are a little short to reach the pedals and this time I didn’t want to go on, so he missed out this time. He was easily put off by realising the gun dog display was going on in the central ring.
The displays in the central ring are worth stopping to watch. There’s usually plenty of space to sit, and quite often they’re repeated later in the day so if you miss one you can see another later.
The gundog display was great. For a child who goes on shoots, and lives on a farm with a gun shy ‘working’ Labrador, a nuts about beating springer spaniel, and a hopefully good working sprocker pup in the future, he was really interested. It helped that he could relate to the dogs being shown. It was amazing to see how mad the springer got for the tennis ball – none of our dogs really know what to do with a tennis ball. They’ll pick up fallen apples, but tennis balls are a mystery to them. And then the Pointer came out – I’ve never seen one at work, but wow, it was like a statue. It was a little creepy, but amazing to see.
We wanted to watch the Lamb National, but had to make our way over to the theatre. The Countryfile theatre is one of the places you need to book tickets in advance. There was tiered seating and flat seating in front so we got a front row tiered seat so we could see. It also meant when the performers came out they came along the walk way in front of us.
The show was great. 3 of the presenters rotated round each of the show times, and we had Ellie, Tom and Matt – the OH would be very jealous of us being in Ellie’s team for the animal quiz). Jon Culshaw was MC-ing so we got some impressions thrown in too.
One of the best bits was the enactment through Circus Bijoux, of the Countryfile music and introduction pictures. With a wild swimmer on high wire, and silk work from a rock climber. Oh and the jumping horses, it was a fun start to the show before the 3 presenters were brought in. N was very excited to see people from the television, but more excited about how they entered the stage – horse and carriage, a large Case tractor and wagon. The show entailed a Q&A session with questions from the audience, an animal quiz (for which our part of the audience was a bit rubbish – the other team’s questions were much easier), and a weatherman pause with Thomas Schafenaker. It’s a simple set up, but lovely to hear from people we watch every week on a Sunday evening.
Afterwards we were some of the last to leave seats so didn’t bother waiting to get autographs. Instead we headed off to grab some lunch via the enormous bouncy castle. I remember when N wouldn’t go on bouncy castles. He does love a bouncy slide and this play equipment was massive. With 10 minute slots is was plenty, and the kids charged around on it. I loved seeing N no longer phased about older or younger children getting in the way. He just scooted past them. And I was astounded to see him happy to pile on an inflatable ‘dodgem’ car with about 6 other children! Any physical he’ll now pretty much give a go, and he’d have loved to have stayed on longer given the chance. He did come off with a bit of inflatable ‘burn’ on his elbow, but lunch soon took his mind off that.
Lunch was a sausage sandwich for N and I fancied pasta. So we bought those from stalls near the central ring again and found a picnic bench to watch a bit of the BMX display. The fresh pasta with pesto was delicious, and it was so lovely to sit outside in the sun. We couldn’t see all of the BMX stunts but we saw enough. N reckoned they were going to limbo under the pole, and couldn’t believe it when he saw them jumping over it on bikes!
We then headed over to the Farming in Action zone. Last year we spent ages watching the old tractors and vehicles working, but this year it was the new machinery that was a draw for N. Sitting in the huge potato harvester was essential as that’s another harvester ticked off his list that he’s sat in. No call for potato harvesters round our way. Then a Case cab caught his eye – what? No tractor base!
From the farming area there was a good view of the water where you could canoe or have a go in a coracle. They looked really interesting but N hadn’t been interested in trying these out. You also have to sign up early to try those, and I presume an extra cost.
We decided to have a go at the grain quiz on the Fen Grain stand. I think the guy was quite impressed N knew the wheat, barley and rape seed, although was a little distracted by everything rather than answering questions. Still, a few packs of freebie biscuits kept his tummy from rumbling through the afternoon.
A wander down to the woodland trust area, and I thought we could try out some of the activities there. Digging and planting things, or checking out woodland animals. But no, the giant Connect 4 was the draw. N is so funny though. He will wait so patiently for his go and always has done since he was young. He wouldn’t dream of interfering with someone else’s game.
He frowned on a baby picking up the rounds when someone else in front of him was playing, and then was most put out when we’d finished our game and a boy of about 3 or 4 came over and started ‘helping’ N fill in the holes. ‘Mummy, why is that boy coming over and putting things in the connect 4, it’s our go?’. How to explain other children don’t have patience and just want a go now, and that other parents are happy to let their children interfere. He wasn’t happy. And I’m with him. It irritates me too when others interfere in someone else’s game but he’s going to have to learn that other children do that.
Our final effort was to cool down a bit and find somewhere to buy ice cream. I was expecting to be able to spot ice cream vans in every area, but we couldn’t find one in the farming area, or Adam’s farm area where we also stopped to watch a bit of an introduction on Oxfordshire Young Farmers. We had to trek right back to the village green spot where there was a choice of about 6 stalls/vans. It might have been better to spread them a bit more around the place although it did mean that having them all together, the queues were shorter than if there’d been 1-2 in every zone.
Similarly it would have been nice if there’d been a central place for people to fill up water bottles rather than having to either lug around a massive bottle or 3-4 smaller ones to cope with the day as an alternative to paying £2 a time to buy a bottle of water. And we needed a lot of water that day as it was so hot.
The ice creams we had were delicious (I even managed to get N to choose something other than his usual vanilla – when they’re posh vanilla he never seems to like them as much), and were a good way to finish off our day out.
N finished his ice cream off sitting watching the Stihl World Championships Timber Sports finals. From 3 years ago when N used to be scared of watching the chain saws, now he loves it. We cheered on our British men, although they were getting pipped at the post by a guy from Czech Republic on the 2 rounds we watched. Hopefully a British guy managed to hold on to win in the end.
Then it was time to head back to the car, find our way out of the car park and begin the 30 minute drive out of Blenheim estate and back out to the main road. We left early this year (at 3pm), in the hope the journey out would be shorter, but it wasn’t. Annoying when we were parked next to the usual Bladon exit.
Thanks to the sunny weather, yet again Countryfile Live proved a great day out. We were sun-kissed (well I was a little burnt on my shoulders) by the time we left, we’d seen lots we’d wanted to and missed last year. And because it was our second year, we didn’t feel the need to rush around as much as usual.
I’m sure next year’s event will be just as successful. I’d definitely recommend it if you’ve never been before.
Did you make it this year? What similar events have you been to or planning, this summer?
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Disclosure: We received press tickets for the event. All words and opinions are my own