As soon as I spotted the BBC were doing the first Countryfile Live show, and that it was local to us, I knew we would be going. We’re farmers (well, N tells me I’m not, but I live on a farm and am married to one) and watch Countryfile every week. As I’m sure most farmers do. So of course it was an essential day out for us.
We were lucky enough to get hold of tickets (blimey, by that weekend I had them coming out of my ears – but my friends were very happy) and decided on the Sunday for our trip. The OH refused to come so we’d arranged to meet up with friends for lunch. After the traffic nightmares on Thursday I was worried (not to self, never go to an event on the first day because there will be traffic hell) but we drove there with no delays, and parked no problem. Luckily it was a beautiful day, I always wonder how these events would turn out if it rained.
Countryfile Live was held at Blenheim Palace which is a great venue. It’s a little hilly in places but generally is good for little legs, so I knew we’d be set for the day with our picnic. Usually we eat out at events – because it’s nice to treat ourselves, plus it means less to carry, but the picnic worked out quite well. Plus it means we had snacks ready whenever N was hungry.
The site was large and a map to find your way around is really helpful. I did have a site guide, then promptly lost it, and couldn’t find another one. It would have been nice for the occasional large map signs around the site, to have had a few there for people to take away if needed. The signage was good though, and it wasn’t hard to find where we were going. It just meant I had no idea what time the talks were in the Big Barn, or what time the main arena sessions were.
The main arena show was a disappointment because we didn’t get there. I’d looking online some time before the event and all the show times were fully booked. With my wristband I was expecting to be able to just walk in without a ticket, but on entry to the show asking the staff at the VIP walk entrance, they had no idea and just said it was fully booked. On my pass the information was lacking and no-one to ask, so I don’t know if staff could help those asking with standard entry. It turned out we should have been able to get in with no problem, but the lack of information (and not knowing the show times) was not helpful.
I’ve heard mixed reactions to the main arena show – some said it was great, another family weren’t that excited. It’s great that it was free, but a shame that it couldn’t have just been done in one large open arena for anyone to turn up to rather than seated, separated and reliant on booking early enough to get a seat.
We did get to The Big Barn to hear John Hammond and a behind the scenes of the BBC Countryfile weather. I found it interesting but N did get bored. I don’t know how much the other talks were suitable for children, or really more interesting to adults or older children.
We walked a long way during the day, but still felt like we’d not done much – no shopping, we didn’t do the craft tent, walked by the National Trust 50 things activity area, and didn’t get to canoe or 4×4 trail. We probably could have done with 2 days to make sure we did everything…or get the OH to come next time so he can take N to look at tractors while I got to shop!
1, The vintage games at the Village Green.
These were brilliant fun and free. Plus the staff running the area, were really supportive and encouraging of children who may have been a bit nervous.
2, JCB ride ons at Adam’s Farm.
N is never that excited about seeing the animals, refused to go in the petting area, so we stuck with the JCB rides.
3, The timber carving at the Stihl arena.
The last time I tried to persuade N to watch chain saw work, N dragged me away. This time he couldn’t stay away. And the free baseball hat went down a treat as well.
4, The central ring.
We watching most of the horse/acrobatic riding display which N was amazed about (and then told me he’d seen similar the day before at Blakesly Show.
And we had to stick around for the brilliant Dogs and Ducks show by the dog trainer and psychologist Stuart Barnes. He‘s great fun to watch, great for the adults and kids, and doesn’t mince his words about his untrained dogs picking off ducks. For anyone with dogs with issues, there were also some tips which I thought made sense and that we could try with our gun shy ‘working’ Labrador. But the OH wasn’t impressed – he should find out more because it made a lot of sense even though our dog has been gun-shy since being a pup for seemingly no reason.
5, Mounted games.
We watched for a bit to see England win a couple of races, but mostly it just created a talking point because I could show N the type of games 2 of his cousins do, who’ve recently represented England at the European and World Cup in Mounted games.
6, The Wildlife Trusts children’s area.
This was a brilliant area with lots of activities to see and do. We examined some mammal skulls – who knew that a fox skull is basically the same size as a badger’s?! We also did the animal Olympics – of sorts. N kept finding each new ‘sport’. He did the agility of the squirrel jumping from stone to stone. He then grabbed a hockey stick to whack the ball for a second activity. A bit dangerously as he wasn’t going to dribble it from cone to cone like the activity stated, and in the way I showed him. No, N likes to hit a ball as far as possible, which he did several times before he could hit other children wanting a go…my challenge is still to encourage him to learn hockey and join the local club. He really is good at connecting using sticks or rackets and balls! There was also an area that children could make seed bombs, but I couldn’t persuade N to join in with that.
7, RSPB bird tent.
We spotted a few interactive wheels to play with, but we didn’t last long in there, because there was too much else to look at.
8, Farming in Action.
Being a tractor lover, this area was always going to be a good one. There were vintage tractors and machinery in operation including an old baler, a potato sorter and more. Then of course, so many modern tractors, combines and sprayers. N wanted to sit in every one, but after queuing for 4, even he was getting bored of waiting for other children to have their go ahead of him.
9, Water bottles only cost £1.
Yes, the other food on offer looked expensive, as were the rides, and ice creams around £2.50 upwards. However, I bought a bottle of water for only £1. I’d rather there was a bottle filling station like at some festivals, but at least there wasn’t a queue for it, and it was reasonably priced.
10, Catching up with friends at lunch.
N hasn’t really seen his friend from nursery since they went to different schools, so to meet up for lunch they were in heaven. I’m not sure his friend’s dad was – he spent most of the time with both boys piling on his back. It was lovely to see them enjoying each other’s company though.
Countryfile Live is back next year, the same weekend, and I’m sure we’ll be back there next year. It’s nice to have another local, large event. I’d love to see some changes though.
What I’d like to be different in future
1, The cost.
Entrance is expensive, although I’d imagine a lot of people ended up going in free with the complimentary tickets which seemed to be all over the internet beforehand. Next year I expect there’ll be fewer. But it would be nice if the tickets were just a little cheaper (or the parking was free), but less freebies around. Having said that, maybe making it cheaper would have just packed it out too much.
Once inside there were quite a few expenses if you let the kids choose what they wanted to go on The usual fairground rides which looked gorgeous but totted up cash wise. N really wanted to play hook the duck but at £3 he had to make do with a different ride and an ice cream instead.
There was a good deal with Blenheim Palace that you could show your event ticket and get 50% off a Blenheim ticket (which could then upgrade free to an annual pass). I wanted to do this but we just didn’t have time to walk up to the house and then enjoy everything we did at Countryfile Live.
2, The main arena show
While this was available to everyone, I’m not sure how many walk up tickets would have been available. It would have been nicer to have it open with lots of screens rather than closing it off and having lots o people miss out.
3, Have better specific areas.
Food to eat there was all over the place which is useful, but it would have been nice to have a ‘kids’ area for activities, rather than spread around.
4, Food ‘hall’
While Countryfile Live isn’t specifically a food show, I was expecting a larger food to buy hall than there was – it was mixed in with random home stands. As with all food tents, the aisles were way too small, it was too hot and people just aren’t spatially aware of others around them…predominantly kids and buggies who get hit by accident without people realising or apologising.
5, The traffic
We were lucky because they’d sorted out the traffic system after the first day. But it seems lots of events get it wrong on the first day.
6, More time
If I’d had the chance to stay longer (we left at 4, it closed at 6), we would have done. I could have done with 2 days there to fit everything in. It might have helped if I’d been able to get hold of another map and not lost mine, but we did reach most areas if just fleetingly.
7, The presenters
Apart from the one session in the Big Barn, we didn’t see any of the presenters around. Some of them we’ve seen at other times – Adam Henson at his farm, and John Craven in Sainsbury’s but on the day we went, we didn’t spot any of them wandering around. But I know on the other days friends had spotted them and had photos taken. N wasn’t bothered – it wouldn’t occur to him to want to meet them
So that’s one day of BBC Countryfile Live in a blog post. We had a great day, and we’re really pleased there’s going to be another one in future.
Disclosure: We were given press tickets and tickets from Blacks for the event. All photos, words and opinions are my own.
Why not take a look at these similar posts.