We love exploring the British countryside as a family and watching the TV program Countryfile on a Sunday evening is our guilty pleasure.
If you have not seen it, it is all about the people, places and stories making news in the British countryside. It features a good mix of conservation and British wildlife, farming and also has the best and most accurate weekly weather forecast we have found. It has also given us lots of ideas for family days out.
This weekend we headed to Blenheim Palace for our very first visit to Countryfile Live and our first impression was “WOW – it’s huge”.
Countryfile Live is like a huge county show crossed with a festival and there is so much fun on offer that you couldn’t possibly fit it all into a day. However, what sets it apart from other shows is the sheer attention to detail.
You enter through the show’s Village Green with traditional fairground rides for the kids to enjoy, a huge food festival where you can sample home-grown delights all accompanied by a brass band doing their thing in the bandstand. Everything is clearly marked by huge road type signs, so you know exactly where you are.
Having got back from Camp Bestival the weekend before, we were well aware that any activities we wanted to do had to be booked early, so we headed to the back of the event to the National Trust area to book tree climbing and kayaking. Hubby and I did the queuing whilst the kids created some wild art with the NT volunteers.
The waterside was the most popular of the two and despite getting there nice and early, all spots for the family kayaking and coarse fishing were already taken, however Hubby and Isaac managed to get on both Paddle Boarding and Kayaking spots. In fact, they were taken out of the queue to do Paddle Boarding as there were a couple of free spots.
Having had my first paddleboarding lesson last week, where it took me a good half an hour to get the confidence to stand up, I stood in disbelief as Isaac managed it within mere seconds of climbing aboard.
The activity was free to do, but I would have like to have seen some more instruction – especially for the kids. Luckily Isaac had Daddy to help and was soon paddling like a pro.
At the back of the lake was the Wildlife Zone where you could learn all about conservation projects from experts, learn country skills such as scything and spinning, discover bee-keeping and even become a bee and try to collect as much pollen as possible.
Their favourite stand was the University of Southampton, where they had to identify animal skulls and take part in scientific experiments. In fact Tom was so brilliant with the kids, he came off the stand to help them identify a dead bird they had found in the woods behind – turns out it was a goose!
By now it was their tree climbing slot with the Big Tree Climbing Co, and some of the staff recognised them from the week before.
Whilst Eliza and Isaac climbed to see who could get the highest, Sebby happily got to work on building a den with the help of the National Trust Volunteers.
Isaac then braved the zipline.
With our kayaking experience booked for later in the afternoon, we took the opportunity to explore more of what was on offer in the rest of the show – not sure this was quite what a combine harvester was invented for.
I have to admit we radiated towards stands that had activities for the kids and have come home with a free Rowan tree from the Woodland Trust and some butterfly friendly plants for the garden.
There were also several arenas hosting displays such as the dog and duck show, machinery, music and livestock.
The kids particularly enjoyed the STIHL Timbersports British Championships where we saw a wood cutting race and extreme wood carving.
I managed to squeeze in a ‘Cooking with Meat’ show with Adam Herbert whilst we queued up to top up our water bottles.
Then it was time for the boys kayaking session which they both thoroughly enjoyed, although they did get wetter on this than when on the paddleboards.
Countryfile Live really is a show that accommodates the wants and needs of the whole family and if we do visit again, I will make sure we go for at least two days as we saw less than 1/2 of what was on offer.
10 Top Tips for attending Countryfile Live
1. Get there for opening time and be prepared to stay all day
2. Take plenty of drinks for the family. There are free top up water stations dotted around the event
3. If the kids want to book things to do – find out the locations and get there early as they book up quickly
4. Do at least two days as one is not enough (Thursday and Friday are much quieter than the weekend)
5. Take plenty of money / change. There are stalls everywhere selling everything from food and drink to camping equipment, garden ornaments to pet supplies, plus Fairground rides cost extra too.
6. Countryfile Live is a dog friendly event and there were hundreds there. Make sure you look where you are going as I managed to get tangled up in a lead and fell over one hurting my foot (ouch).
7. Parking is quite a long walk from the event, so if travelling with young children you may want to take a buggy or trolley for them to sit in
8. Free wristbands are available for the kids in case they get lost – make sure you fill them in with your number!
9. Make sure you make a list of your ‘must see’ shows and then just go with the flow the rest of the time
10. Take an empty backpack for all those impromptu purchases / freebies!!
I must make a special mention for Visit Cayman Islands after the kids fell in love with their blue iguana cuddly toys – you made their day giving them their very own!
Happy 30th Birthday Countryfile – looking forward to the next 30 years of fun and we look forward to visiting CountryLive next year!!