The BBC Countryfile Live Show – Blenheim Palace – Oxfordshire
Having been an avid viewer of the BBC Countryfile programme for the past twenty-eight years there was only one place I was going to be on the weekend of 4th-7th August 2016 – the spectacular grounds of Oxfordshire’s historic Blenheim Palace for Countryfile Live.
During the referendum debate the BBC moved an episode of Countryfile to an earlier slot because of a special Brexit edition of Question Time and thousands of the shows average 1.7million viewers complained. The popularity of the programme continues to grow with 9.7 million viewers tuning in one February evening this year making it the most popular programme on British TV. Popular with the Royal Family, Princess Anne and Prince Charles have both appeared on the programme.
The stunning stately home and magnificent grounds of legendary landscape gardener Capability Brown was the ideal setting in which to highlight the best of the Great British countryside. Blenheim Palace is the home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. This World Heritage site boasts more than 300 years of history and houses one of the finest antique collections in Europe. Situated in more than 2000 acres of landscaped parkland, lakes and formal gardens there is also a charming miniature railway which transports visitors to the family friendly Pleasure Gardens.
`Countryfile Live` is a new event which allows visitors to enjoy every aspect of the British countryside and the chance to meet their favourite Countryfile presenters, take a peek into Adams Farm and watch exciting live arena shows including daredevil trapeze artists. Add into the mix a collection rare breed animals, demonstrations of the latest farming machinery, outdoor fun for kids, hundreds of food and craft stalls to shop from, the best of British food and drink to sustain visitors throughout the day and you have a wonderful day out.
Not only was it an educational and informative day but a lot of fun for the whole family to enjoy. I enjoyed a refreshing drink at the picturesque village pub `The Craven Arms` named after its longest serving presenter John and took a stroll down Baker Street! I was unable to watch the birds of prey display in the central arena but I did manage to get up close to several fine raptors such as the Giant Eagle Owl and my favourite the beautiful Barn Owl in the wildlife Zone alongside Bees, Moths, Butterflies, ferrets, polecat, rabbits and Ants!
The central arena shows were especially entertaining and informative including the Dog & Duck Show which introduced several sheepdogs being put through their paces herding a flapping flock of Ducks and a display showing gun dogs working alongside their two legged friends illustrating a typical working day. I particularly enjoyed watching the powerful and majestic Shire Horses demonstrating that these versatile working animals are still contributing today in both forestry and agriculture in many different ways.
I have been buying the Countryfile Calendar every year since 2009 when it was decided to feature the best twelve photographs form the photographic competition which had started in 1990 to help raise money for Children in Need. It was fantastic looking back at the last ten years winning photographs. Last year a picture of a cheeky hedgehog scooped the major prize helping to raise more than £2m for the charity. The view from the nearby 12metre high Camera Tower was stunning providing an excellent vantage point from which to view the whole site and a spectacular vista of Blenheim Palace.
It was impossible to visit the show without tasting an ice cream because there were forty of the nation`s best ice cream producers on site as part of the `The Great British Ice-Cream Parlour`. I went for a traditional `99`with a chocolate flake. How can you eat an ice cream cone without a flake?
There was also a fascinating collection of modern and old agricultural working vehicles on display including a demonstration of a harvest `baling` machine. Watching the farm hands rake out the cut straw and the machine thumping and baling the straw together into neat tidy bales reminded me how far agriculture has developed and progressed within the last century. The latest computer technology, tiny micro-chips and huge tractors illustrated how farming has changed for ever.
I dropped in to The National Trust Theatre to find a debate going on about the impact of farming on the environment with Countryfile presenter Tom Heap chairing the discussion. As well as the funfair, animal magic and consumer activities the important issues affecting the countryside today were also being talked about. Visitors were also invited to take part and air their views alongside those of recognised experts in their field.
With so much to see and do it was not long before I needed to sit down to eat and take on board some liquid refreshment. `The Craven Arms` provided the perfect spot for relaxing on the roof top terrace. The choice of food around the site was vast. Every type of street food was available from Cuban sandwiches, Portuguese barbecue meats, Indonesian vegetables, gourmet burgers, handmade Scotch eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches to real Italian pizza. I opted for a delicious Thai Chicken Curry washed down with a small cold bottle of Speckled Hen as I sat and watched the teeming throngs below.
At the `Food Heroes Kitchen` I got to meet Masterchef Brian Turner who kindly posed for a photograph as well as providing me some very useful culinary tips for my next dinner party. As a long standing Countryfile viewer I was also pleased to catch sight of presenters John Craven and Adam Henson strolling around the sight alongside the crowds of visitors.
There were so many wonderful creative items to browse over in the Craft Heroes tent it was very easy to purchase an early Christmas present for my wife. I could have selected a Hand-woven basket, a piece of beautiful jewellery, a perfectly formed piece of furniture, soft beautiful textiles or incredible ceramic pieces. I finally chose a small fabric brooch showing a countryside scene which included poppies.
For the children or adults there was lots of more fun active activities to partake in including The Vintage Fun Fair. I resisted the temptation to take a plunge down the Helter-Skelter, ride the Victorian Carousel, feel sick on the Flying Chair-o-Planes or take a spin on Ferris Wheel but many visitors were enjoying the rides.
The weather on the day I visited was excellent and there were a large number of visitors so I was disappointingly unable to access the Countryfile Close- Up events in The Big Barn with presenters being introduced to the audience and there were lots of other activities I missed simply because there was so much to see and I couldn’t be everywhere at the same time but overall I enjoyed the experience and I would recommend friends visit the show next year.
Many may find the cost of tickets for adults at £24 plus a £2.40 booking fee too expensive. Car parking was £3 and the excellent show guide was priced at an affordable £5. I purchased two adult tickets, car parking and the official show guide in advance and paid £62.80.
The Countryfile Live Show
Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PP
Telephone: 01993 256070
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