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We’ve been going to BBC Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace since it started and there’s always something new to see or do. This year it was just ahead of our camping trip and I wasn’t sure whether we wanted to go quite so close to it, but we couldn’t resist.
We took friends with us this year unusual show so it was interesting to see how they took it. The boys are excited because they were booked in to try the kayaking for the first time. In the past we’ve never managed to get there before all the slots were full. So big excitement there.
The walk from the car wasn’t too far and we soon had our wristbands and got through the baggage check. I always think going through the due date and and into the entrance it’s quite an exciting feeling, wondering what you’re going to see. This year there were a few tractors on sprayers just outside although none just through the entrance like usual. Usually there’s quite a few stalls and and watches and crafts + somewhere to leave your shopping purchases. But this year it was very much straight into food stands.
This year Countryfile live was noticeably different. Overall it felt like there was a lot less there than previous years. We certainly missed the farming areas this year. There was no one display of modern tractors or vintage tractors. There were no threshing or baling displays using the old tractors and equipment. No spectacular potato harvesters on display. And no agricultural trade bodies who previously have done activities where children can find out more about the different legumes and grains that are grown. There were a few tractors but they were spread around the entrance or in the farmyard area.
Considering it’s Countryfile Live it felt like they missed out a whole chunk of rural life. Replacing it with more luxury car brands and motorbike stands is suddenly aiming at more more of an urban audience. This follows the way many farmers feel the tv show is going too.
What’s on at BBC Countryfile Live
There’s plenty more to see though, so if you’re new to Countryfile Live, you’ll probably not miss it. I can imagine previous family visitors with young children who enjoy climbing on the tractors, would have been disappointed.
As usual we didn’t make it to any of the theatre talks. Some of the talks you have to book in advance for example the National Trust Theatre which which does children’s activities and talks. I never bother booking these because N will get bored or refuse to go. But this time we never made it up top end to the main theatre other than to see the beautiful floral displays surrounding the stage. The theatre talks are always diverse with the TV presenters from the show but also from wildlife, photography, activist, and outdoor enthusiasts all taking part in various talks across the weekend.
I did catch some of the food kitchen theatre talk about bread and focaccia which was very interesting. The focaccia samples tasted amazing. I think one year I will have to go without N so I can go and listen to lots of the talks and experience more of the food displays. When you have children you get dragged past the photography exhibition, the craft tent, and food tents.
There’s so much to see at Countryfile Live that one day really isn’t enough to see everything that you might want to.
Water activities at the Riverside
This year we’ve been lucky enough to be booked on the kayaking. N wanted to try this since we went to Cotswold Country Park and beach couple of weeks ago so he was really looking forward to it. The water activities are free, but be warned, the queue for registration gets insane. So you really do need to be there first thing in the morning as soon as you arrive to get booked on.
As well as fishing, you can book kayaking which is either one person, two person or a larger family boat, or stand-up paddle boarding. All types go on the water at one time in a set area. I’m not sure what the restrictions are for children going on without adults, but there were plenty of very young children going in with parents and N and his friend were fine going in alone at 8 years old and good swimmers.
Once they were life jacketed up, they were helped into their kayaks given an oar and told where to keep too. N absolutely loved it, and they got the hang of it really quickly. There are quite a lot of people on the water at once but no one fell in, and N didn’t feel worried by coming close to the other kayaks and paddle boarders. They had nearly 25 minutes on the water which was plenty to get a taster.
Their faces were a picture as they got off, and back onto dry land. A quick change of clothing in the changing tents as both had wet bottoms all the way through, and they were set for the rest of the day.
We didn’t see any of the theatre talks and only caught a glimpse of the dog lovers arena. There was plenty to see in the main arena. We decided to sit and have a picnic there while watching some of the shows.
We arrived just in time to see the end of the falconry with an owl that really didn’t want to fly. Then it was time for the dog and ducks show which we caught last year. Stuart really is brilliant and really engaging, and to be honest more people who are dog owners and have no control of their pets should really see it show or in his book.
We watched part of the the extreme mountain bike display where they do great obstacles and jumps with their bikes. We’ve seen before several times but N’s friend wanted to watch them for a bit. It’s always an interesting display, and it’s fun to hear the ribbing the team mates give each other as they’re doing their tricks.
The traditional fairground rides are always popular, and they’re so pretty to see. All 3 boys decided on the huge bouncy slide and obstacle course, and had a lot of fun on that. We’d said they could choose 2 ‘rides’ each, as there was lots to do that was free, but also a lot of paid activities. The 8 year old chose the fun house which wasn’t too expensive, but was pretty short and they decided it was a bad choice as it was too easy for them.
Up by the Craven Arms pub and the BBC Introducing Stage, there was also dodgems but they missed seeing that one, otherwise I suspect they’d have preferred that one.
The village green
We stopped for delicious Cornish ice creams (the older boys wanted frozen yoghurt milkshakes) at the Village Green. This has a traditional bandstand and park feel. We went past earlier and spotted the Scottish Dancing, then sat and listened to the brass band while watching people having a go at croquet. I do love a brass band, and they always take me back to playing in swing bands in my youth with some of the music they played.
We did miss the village ‘fete’ games of previous years. Another thing missing which provided lots of activities.
We headed off afterwards to check out the Stihl World championships. We’ve always enjoyed watching this – supporting the local axe men and chainsaw competitors. This time it was axe work rather than chainsaws. It’s so popular, and by the afternoon it was packed out with spectators.
If you’ve never been, Countryfile Live is a happy day out. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s music, dance, interviews, talks and displays. Gun dogs, horse shows, cookery demonstrations, natural world and wildlife advice. As well as shopping stands for people who want to sample the foods and buy from crafts people. We didn’t get the chance to go into the craft tent, or vote for the photography competition. There were also activity areas as usual run by National Trust, Woodland Trust and RSPB.
There’s something for all ages, whether you’re from a rural area or town.
Highlights of Countryfile Live Blenheim Palace
- The water activities. To get 20ish minutes free try at kayaking or paddle boarding is brilliant. You just need to get there first thing to avoid the huge registration queues.
- The food. We only had ice creams and milkshakes this time as we took a picnic, but there’s so much choice of foods available around the site.
- The shopping. There’s so much to look at and buy – often items you don’t see anywhere else. And some great deals on some stands – Blacks were offering 70% off with their flyer! Shame I didn’t need anymore camping equipment.
- Variety of things to see and do
- The people – whether they’re educating children or adults about helping nature, or helping kids into life jackets, everyone was friendly.
- The Hog Show – a great way to introduce children to the different pigs, with some comedy names – Harry Trotter anyone!
- Plenty of toilets and easily seen from a distance away.
Removal of a whole agriculture section with a few tractors just interspersed elsewhere. Given it’s a countryside based event, farming (apart from The Farmyard where there were animals to meet), wasn’t featured. Maybe farmers don’t visit Countryfile Live. There were local food producers and we visited the British pork and Welsh Lamb stands, but no tractor or harvesting vehicle section will be a disappointment for so many.
It felt like there was less there than previous years and less wow about the Countryfile presenters sessions.
Impossible to find water refill points. I’m sure there were some, but like last year we struggled to find them. The map in the programme didn’t have them marked, and they weren’t sign posted. We had to ask people on stands where they were.
We were pointed towards the one at the Mane Arena. If I hadn’t known the taps were there, I’d have been none the wiser. No signage, and there were people surrounding it as they watched the display making it harder to spot.
The other time I asked someone who pointed us towards the toilets and the medical tent. But we couldn’t find the refill taps, and asked some firemen sitting outside the medic tent, who also didn’t know where the water refill area was. Luckily they had a hose and let us fill up there instead. For dogs, they signpost the watering points and there were plenty around. But for people, you’ll be lucky to find them. I think there should be big water signs like the toilet signs, high up so that everyone can see, especially as the last 2 years have been very warm there.
We were at the Blenheim Event from 9.30 to past 3pm. We left with very tired boys, feeling there was still so much more to see and do. N is talking about going back next year to do more water activities, so I’m sure we’ll be back.
My top tip is if you can, visit for 2 days to get the most out of it and see everything you want to.
Have you been to BBC Countryfile Live this year? What would you like to see there?