I've just got back from an amazing day at Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace, the mother of all country shows packed with show rings, displays, talks, things to make and do, plus plenty of shopping for good measure. I particularly enjoyed the pictured display in the Equine Arena, where I also learned there are only 200 grey shire horses in the world. I'm sure the handsome 19 hands high stallion I saw there is doing his best to bring those numbers up!
|It would be useful if handy guides like this one are available at RHS shows|
The map extract above gives you an idea of how vast the show is and the variety of what's on offer. As well as the handy map, it also lists the 500 or so exhibitors, plus it gives the timetable for the various talks and displays on offer at the 10 theatres, stages and arenas throughout the show. There are also plenty of things to do such as canoeing, and off-road driving, plus all kinds of hands-on activities for you to try.
If you are going tomorrow, do grab one of these maps on your way in as the online map is woefully inadequate, though the accessibility map is a much better bet if you miss out on one. If you're more mobile, be prepared for plenty of walking, both from the car park and around the show. If you're trying to walk 10,000 steps per day, this is easily achievable within the 100 acre site.
|There is location and direction signage throughout the show, though more could be done to make the direction signs clearer and each zone more distinctive. You'll need that map to get around!|
Despite Wednesday's miserable weather, on the whole the going underfoot wasn't that bad when I was there on Thursday. There are plenty of places to sit down throughout the show, mainly of the straw bale variety. I also saw plenty of bales stacked up on the way in, possibly to patch up any boggy areas that developed later, or to bring in as extra seating.
Whilst there was quite a long queue to get in when I arrived at 9.30am (relatively fast moving), the show itself didn't feel overcrowded. Visitors were spoilt for choice for eating and shopping possibilities without much queueing, though I did see some long lines waiting for the loos around lunchtime. Despite those niggles, there's a relaxed vibe and everyone I met was thoroughly enjoying themselves.
There are plenty of activities sprinkled around the show, especially in the National Trust and Go Wild areas, plus around the River Glyne. Some of them - such as canoeing and off-road driving - need to be booked, so I'd recommend heading to these areas first thing to ensure you get a place. You'll also need to book if you want to see the Countryfile presenters at the Countryfile Theatre. All activities and talks are included in the cost of the ticket; the only extras I found were car parking (£5), souvenir brochures (the aforementioned map is free), plus any refreshments and shopping purchases you may wish to make (you're welcome to bring a picnic).
|One of the more unusual activities is the opportunity to don some headphones and immerse yourself in nature|
I was surprised the RHS didn't have their exhibition stand here even though they were listed for a talk on their Greening Grey Britain campaign. A missed opportunity for them perhaps?
A major highlight was the Stihl Timbersports® arena, which is just as well as I was their guest for the day. I saw this for the first time at Westonbirt last year (I wasn't their guest then) and a repeat viewing did not disappoint. I find the Underhand Chop discipline shown in the main picture the most dramatic one to watch as the athletes stand on the log they're chopping in two. I'm always convinced they're going to give themselves a major injury in the process.
I saw how strong the competitors are as they effortlessly lifted some of the huge logs they use into their final positions on stage. These logs are carefully selected according to specific criteria to ensure a fair competition and as I had a backstage pass I could see them all lined up ready for the rest of the event.
Jane Moore also gave several talks on wildlife gardening which were packed with top tips.
There was a cracking soundtrack too, which got the audience dancing and tapping their feet. No wonder the tables at the back had warning notices on them - click the pic to see what it said ;)
What I didn't know until later was the stage backdrop had blown down earlier owing to the blustery day and the team had their work cut out to make the stage safe enough for the demonstrations to take place. As you can see from the collage picture, despite this hiccup the show well and truly did go on.
Thanks to HROC and Stihl I had a wonderful time. I'm planning on a return visit under my own steam with NAH so we can have a go at some of the activities I didn't have time to do. There's still time for you to do so too - it looks like tomorrow (Sunday 6th August) is the best day weatherwise and tickets are available online or on the door :)
|No wonder there are contractors who hire themselves + harvesting machinery out to farmers|