Review of 'Countryfile Live 2018'

https://countryfilelive.com/

Another summer, another trip to “CountryFile Live” which is likely to be the largest country show in the UK under the banner of the much-loved Sunday night BBC television show “CountryFile” this year celebrating it's 30th anniversary. Ever since it started a few years ago at Blenheim Palace (just outside Oxford) we have been going and have enjoyed every visit (2016 and 2017).

Crowds

This time the show was at the end of a long spell of hot weather with temperatures during our visit of about 30 Celsius and brown grass everywhere on the site. As always we arrived very early at 8:00 am in our car on the Sunday in advance of the heavy traffic entering the site, accessed by fairly small roads, however we were not the first ones to make our way into the main gate about 1/2 a mile from the car park (there is a closer car park but this is generally for buses, stallholders and the handicapped). The site itself did not open until 9:30 so until then we were let in but kept in a small area just inside the grounds where there were places to eat and drink as well as toilets while we waited.

30th

It is possible to get to the site without a car but I would not recommend it as it is a good distance from the nearest train station (Oxford or Woodstock) though there are (bus) coaches laid on for visitors.

The CountryFile Experience

Main Stage

The show this year was laid out very similar to last year with the only main change to the show being the lack of a staged show celebrating CountryFile replaced instead with “The CountryFile Experience” (and main stage) area immediately adjacent to the impressive back facade of the palace which had a number of tents featuring displays about how CountryFile is produced every week and a large stage area featuring talks throughout the day. We happened to visit later in the day when two of the presenters, John Craven and Matt Baker being interviewed by television pundit (Reverend) Richard Coles, who gave their interesting thoughts on the whole experience to a full house.

Passion for British Livestock

The first section we headed for was the “Passion for British Livestock” section at the extreme south end of the site which we both very much enjoy as it gives us a chance to see (and pet!) farm animals including many from “Adam's Farm” (Adam Henson is a presenter on the show but is a farmer himself).

Milking

We missed talking to Adam himself (he had been there a few minutes earlier) but were able to catch a demonstration of milking a cow (using a machine) that we were very lucky to be able to see in detail being right beside it (those on the far side of the ring must not have seen anything).

Sheep

The animals, as always, were the big draw here with children having a great time with them. Helpfully the staff provided buckets of feed so you could feed the animals directly (yes, free of charge).

Explore Britain

“Explore Britain” is on the far side of the river accessed either across the old stone bridge or via two wide temporary plastic pontoon bridges (very wonky but a lot of fun) and features displays from various nature and outdoor groups including beekeepers, RSPB, boat builders, Wildlife Trusts, etc. Very interesting and we learned a lot about how to effectively feed the birds in our backyard.

Lake

Farming in Action

The “Farming in Action” section this year was far smaller and, unfortunately, did not feature many of the demonstrations we have seen in previous years. There were still a few displays of old and new farming equipment including a massive combine harvester.

Steam Tractor

Village Green

Morris Dancing Stage

We passed through the village green several times and each time it seemed to feature Morris Dancers which always grab our attention with their humorous dancing and costumes - Very British. The space featured a bandstand with seating under the trees providing welcome relief from the merciless sun of the day. A small performance area to the side of the stage was used for larger performances.

Morris Dancing Group

Equine Arena

Racing

The Equine Arena at the far north end of the site close to the main stage featured, as always, various horse displays including buggy racing and horse team displays.

Shoeing

This area is always of interest in not only seeing the horses (ponies, and donkeys too…) on display in the arena but also the “Shire Horse Village” which allows you to get up close and personal with the massive Shire horses. When we visited a ferrier was shoeing a horse but he was also talking to those watching to explaining what he was doing and what it is like. Very interesting.

Harness


National Trust Theatre

In previous years we have booked a number of talks but this year, as we have heard many of the presenters speaking previously, we decided to only attend one talk which we pre-booked but this has turned out never to be required (except for the big stage-shows of previous years). This time late in the day we attended a talk in the rather warm National Trust Theatre tent “How does Wildlife Help Farms and Gardens to Thrive?” which featured Adam Henson (presenter) and Brett Westwood (presenter of BBC Radio 4's “Natural Histories”) talking about their particular take on the subject being questioned by another CountryFile presenter Tom Heap. It was an interesting discussion that unfortunately was called to a halt just as it was getting interesting when the allotted 30 minutes were up (as the presenters had to make it to the far side of the site).

Talk

Other Areas

As always the show also included the following:

  • Great British Crafts - Tents and stalls featuring what you might expect.
  • Food Market - Near the main entrance, this section featured yet more tents and stalls including a large “Countryfile Kitchen” tent with a number of vendors but generally this area was where you headed if you wanted something to eat during the day. An interesting area sponsored by Waitrose featured interesting local produce with lots of samples. There was also a modest “Countryfile Kitchen Theatre” stage here that put on cooking displays all day.
  • Stihl Timbersports British Championship - Demonstrating the power of the chainsaw this is always fun. When we passed through several of the artists were offering to carve initials into wooden disks free of charge for the crowds…
  • Central Arena - This area featured displays throughout the day including bicycle tricks, dog hunting demonstrations, and birds of prey.
  • Dog Lovers' Arena - A smaller arena featuring various dog-based contests including obstacle course running.
  • Craven Arms - This eating and drinking area featured a small stage as well as “The Craven Arms” two-story “pub” named after the presenter and is always popular.

Craven Arms

None of this was any different than previous years so did not really hold our attention for too long. So many of the stallholders we have seen before with the only thing really of interest to us were some of the shows.

Morris Truck

Final Thoughts

Generally the event seemed not quite as big as previous years and it also did not seem as busy though this could have been because of the incredibly warm weather. The loss of the big main-stage show I don't think was missed and things seemed to be a bit more comfortably spaced out to handle the crowds. Next year the show is going to be returning to Blenheim Palace in early August then again in Castle Howard (Yorkshire) a few weeks later – Nice to see it heading to the north for more people to enjoy.

We found the day exhausting as we attempted to see as much as we could during the day but disappointed in much of it being the same as previous years with our solace in the many talks and shows on during our visit. It is better that we only booked the one talk so we were able to wander the site basically at our leisure but even so it was difficult to figure out exactly what talks were on in advance as this information was not available or made available only at the very last minute (so we only stumbled on the main stage talk by accident).

Presenters (1)

Presenters (2)

For me this is certainly is the best country show in the UK beyond a shadow of a doubt and not just for fans of the show, for anyone interested in the countryside and nature. Most definitely recommended.

Rating:

Review Date: 2018-08-05



Blenheim Palace

Location: Woodstock (England)

Address: Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PP ENGLAND

Public Transport: NRLOGO Oxford Parkway NRLOGO Bicester

Telephone: +44 (0) 1993 810530

URL: http://www.blenheimpalace.com/

blenhem2.jpg Ancestral home of the Duke of Marlborough and famously the childhood home of Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is a beautiful stately home in the Oxfordshire countryside (see my Oxfordshire page) surrounded by wonderful parkland and a scenic lake.

Though you can take public transport the easiest way to get here is by car (parking facilities available) or by tourist coach. The house is definitely the highlight but the grounds certainly deserve a lot of your time as well as the formal gardens around the house.