This year, again we were invited to come along to Countryfile Live to see how different it is compared with the last two. For the third year running the weather has been hot and very dry, invites almost like a dust bowl. It reminds me of the last time we went to the game fair at Blenheim Palace. We are not good in the heat but we made the best of it and had an enjoyable day.
Usually we arrive early for entry time, but because we were staying for the summer party I decided we would arrive a bit later to make it a shorter day for N. With the heat we still struggled but we made it through. I have to say though we hardly touched the surface of what there was to do. We managed to d miss out on the most important area, the new Countryfile experience which replaced the Countryfile Theatre of previous years. Gutted.
N decided to take the lead when we arrived and he wanted to head straight for the tractors. We did end up detouring in and out of other areas while heading for the farming area.
We hit the rides first. There was a different layout for some places with the fun fair on the first walk in. It meant we missed the big map and without a map handout at start ( I refuse to pay for one and I’d forgotten my printout) we did just amble for most of the day.
N does love his rides and he’s just discovered ferris wheels, so course we had to go on the big wheel here. He also loved the chair ride and came off with a huge grin on his face.
Next step was lunch. We headed for the first food market area and of course the first thing that N spotted was the gourmet hot dogs. £10 later and we each had one to eat. Delicious but very expensive as per usual at these kind of events. Unfortunately with the site there’s very little shade to sit in and it was so crowded it was hard to find somewhere to sit down but we found somewhee in the end..
Then it was on through to the tractors and the farming area. We’ll always whizz through Adam’s farm area because for N it’s just more animals similar to what he sees every day. So he didn’t let me hang around to see what they had. We also went to check in at our vets but there wasn’t anyone on their stand we knew. There’s always plenty to see in the farm area though. We spotted a beautiful Suffolk horse, some goats which I really wanted to go over and see, and there was a talk going on in the ring about cows.
This year there weren’t the vintage tractor and harvest displays. Instead they were focusing on British sugar promotion. The Vintage tractors were just lined up when we were there. N did enjoy sitting on several of them and pretending to drive them before one of the guys from the land girls display suggested he come and search for the rats in their Blue Force display.
For the first time we actually headed down to the water to see what they was going on there. Unfortunately everything bookable was already sold out so there is no chance to try the canoeing or anything else. I guess you need to arrive first thing in the morning and had straight there to get booked in, but it is a shame for anyone that can’t arrive at that time. We just ambled for a bit. N tried on the very small fireman’s uniform, but by that stage we were flagging with the heat and need to find one of the water fill up points.
We bought two bottles of water with us to refill and around the site there should have been 5 water refill points from Thames Water. I don’t think these were very well signposted. Having looked around quite a bit of the site, we only spotted the one down by the river because we overheard someone else saying let they’d fill up their bottle. Therewerere no signs around it, so without spotting the queues, we wouldn’t have found one. It did feel like we queued a lot for water during the day which was a shame but essential. Damn that heat. There were plenty of water points for dogs though which was good.
We mostly mooched this year taking it easy as there anything in particular we wanted to see. We watched some of the dog displays for a bit including, the creepy dog that just stops like a statue everytime it’s stalking its prey.
In the main ring we caught the tail end of the mountain bike display which is always fun but I have to remind N never to try something like that. Thankfully he’s not that daring a child. We also spotted from a distance the Kubota tractor and gator doing a police chase which amused N because it was just a cloud of dust. I feel for the people sitting in the audience.
Of course the Stihl timber championships had to be one of the watch points. N was hoping for another free hat from them, but they’d obviously already been handed out by the time we got there. But we stuck around and watched a bit of the championship before heading off towards the Countryfile experience.
We’d left this until near the end of the day because that’s where we needed to be for the summer party. They’d said the last talk would be from 4 with the area closed at 5, ready to get the party set up for 6. I’d presumed that we would still be able to see the experience right up to 5. But we listened to John Craven and Charlotte Smith talking to Rev Richard Coles for about 25 minutes and then we had to leave the area.
The actual experience part was stands around the outside of the seated arena but within the wider experience which meant that that also got closed down at just after 4:30. So we didn’t get the chance to see anything of the behind the scenes part of Countryfile. This was a bit sad as it was the area that I really fancied seeing as it was new compared with the last 2 years. It also meant that we missed out on any meet and greets. In future I would definitely head there first rather than letting N decide what we were doing, because I think he would have quite enjoyed it as well.
We decided to go and get tea at this point so we’d still have a bit of time before the summer party to relax and stay out of the heat. N had decided he wanted pizza and with a big tent to get undercover we met at the Delivita pizzeria. There were no kids size pizzas and at £14 a pizza there was no way he was having one for himself. So we ordered one pizza and a side salad. Add 2 drinks to that and it cost £25. Gasp. Very delicious but very expensive. It was lovely to get in the shade, and sit and watch the end of the day as everyone was starting to head off for home.
The show on Saturday was ending at 6:30 but quite a few stands shut down at 6. N had wanted to go back to the McDonald’s Feedsteps Farming Simulator again as he loved that earlier but we just missed the end of the queue before it closed down. Instead we headed into the RSPB activity tent and N happily spent 20 minutes colouring in and making a Little Tern bird flapper. It’s so interesting watching him when he’s focused like that because I don’t see what he’s like at school. I think all the other parents there were quite impressed at how hard he thought about his colouring.
We headed back up to the Summer Party which was a new addition to Countryfile Live this year. I thought we had arrived in plenty of time before the gates opened for the summer party but by the time we got there there was very little space to pop down at blanket. We found a space in the middle of the grass and made ourselves comfortable.
It was just like a festival atmosphere with food stands and a bar if people wanted it. I think if we went again we would try and sit further back because N couldn’t see the stage without being in the middle – there were people right in front of him standing up but not moving forward to where the standing area was, so were blocking our view. Or we would arrive a lot earlier and queue to get in to get a better spot. There were big screens but they didn’t use these for the musicians which was a bit odd.
The atmosphere of the summer party was lovely. Everyone very relaxed and enjoying themselves, and the music was great. Bob Harris was the host for the evening and during the introductions as well as in between sets, interviewing 3 of the Countryfile presenters. Ferris and Sylvester weren’t a band that I have heard of before but we enjoyed their music. Newton Faulkner it was a great showman. He really got the audience going and while N didn’t get that excited about it I thought he was great.
The reason I’ve wanted to go to the summer party was because of The Shires. I love their music and while I’m not a big country music fan anything that’s a bit more poppy I do enjoy. By this stage though N was really tired and getting a bit bored. After a full day in the sun I think it was just that little bit too long for him. Especially without a friend to keep him entertained. So we stayed for a few songs and then listen to the rest as we walked back to the car through the ghost like Countryfile Live site.
We had a great day at Countryfile Live but I think we suffered because of the heat. I came away feeling like we haven’t really done much or seen much. I’d have loved for N to have the chance to go canoeing but it wasn’t to be. And it would have been nice if we been able to get friends to come with us so it keeps N entertained for longer. Potentially then we could have got there earlier in the day and stayed for longer.
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Highlights of the day
The summer party. It’s a nice addition to the day but it really makes it too long for children. I think you need two days at Countryfile Live. Or in future we would probably do one day of Countryfile Live on a different day to the party and then do the summer party separately.
The farming simulator. Nathaniel loved trying to do the potato harvest. I’m not sure how successful he was but it really was the highlight of his day. And it was free.
My selfie stickt. And the Instagrammable flower wall. Because N won’t take photos of me so at least I get to take some of myself!
Tips for getting the most out of your day
Take seating like camping chairs, and plenty of drinks. Some people use festival wagons to transport all their stuff around which I would hate to drag around everywhere with me. But there is never enough seating and camping chairs would be really handy to just put up where you needed rather than having to sit beside trading stands to find some shade. You’d also be able to carry more water and spend less time queuing which takes away from the time you’ve got to see everything.
Plan in advance what you want to do and see. If there are bookable activities arrive early and go to them straight away to book because they do book up fast. Print off a map before you go and work out your route.
If there are shows or displays you want to see head there early to get a spot or to queue for opening. Because others will do this and you won’t get a spot to see anything.
Don’t leave the Countryfile experience until the last slot of the day because it might get cut short. I thought we would do this to avoid the queues but it was a mistake.
Take a picnic if you don’t want to pay expensive food prices. This is to be expected at events like this but if you’ve got a big family it’s going to cost you a lot of money. Just remember that the car parks can be a long walk back and the site is large so you don’t want to be walking backwards and forwards from the car park. I’d rather pay the prices for the food and to lug a lot of bags around all day. Oh and read prohibited item lists before you turn up at the site. We saw a lot of glass bottles that had been confiscated at the security checks earlier in the day.
As always Countryfile Live puts on a good show. It’s well organised and there’s plenty to see and do for the whole family. I’m sure we’ll be back another year.
Did you visit Countryfile Live? How did you find it this year in the heat?
Disclosure: We were provided with press passes for Countryfile Live.
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