The country girl in me has taken over and I have become a bit obsessed with all things ‘country’. I now dream of having a house in the North Yorkshire Dales with chickens.
So when I mentioned with great excitement that Countryfile were doing a live show at Blenheim Palace which coincided with our ‘Staycation’ and that we should all go and have an idyllic ‘family’ day out; I was met by groans and rolling eyes by my two eldest children.
Husband assured me that it was absolutely fine that they didn’t want to come (they are after all almost 19 and 16) and that we could still go taking Archie and the dog. Archie was very excited at the thought of Countryfile.
HURRAH I have 1/3 of my children enthusiastic for a day out still.
Getting up and leaving the house at 7am suddenly wasn’t such fun, even the dog wasn’t impressed at being put in the car this early.
On arrival at Blenheim Palace we parked with ease, the rain had stopped and there were portaloos right by the car park (perfect). Actually not so perfect; for being the Mum who is still trying to be fashionable I had donned dungarees, which I discovered very quickly posed a bit of a problem in the portaloo department. Thankfully the toilets had been cleaned and we were one of the first people to use them that morning because I had my straps all over the floor whilst negotiating the toilet. At one point I stood on my strap almost falling over (if that’s possible) inside the toilet.
Once again I was met with rolling eyes and laughter as I stomped out of the toilet with my dungarees around my waist moaning ‘epic festival fashion error’ out loud oblivious to the long que of people who had arrived in the time I had wrestled with myself inside a small plastic booth.!!! (I made mental note that I had to discover a sensible way of removing dungarees to pee without them dragging across the floor before the end of the day was out).
Some of the first people we met were from The National Trust and so we naturally had some pictures taken (including the dog).
We headed off towards the dog area, because we knew that our good friend Adem from Dog-Ease was going to be in the arena doing demonstrations around 10.30am. It turns out that the dog section was probably the furthest place to walk to, very hot with little shade (not great for dogs). All of the stall holders had water bowls down which was great and helpful, the stall selling cooling coats for dogs made an absolute killing on Sunday.
Back to the show.
Archie had agreed that he would go into the ring with Adem to help him do a demonstration taking our dog with him. Hmmm this would be interesting. Our dog is well-trained and behaves very well thanks to Adem and the work he has done with us, HOWEVER, Becks was in a ring with spectators and Archie. I was out of the ring, so her natural instinct was to look for me. So poor Archie was doing exactly as he was asked to do by Adem and our beloved Labrador sat the wrong way and when she had the opportunity she ran out of the ring to sit next to me. OH DEAR. Yep you guessed it. I then had to go in the ring as well. The shame… So between myself, Archie and Becks we managed to look like comedians and will probably not be asked back by Dog-Ease any time soon.
This did not put Archie off who signed himself up to go back in the ring and work with some Gun-dog instructors and their dogs in the Junior Gun-dog Section (thankfully not with our dog). It was all going so well for Archie and he was announced as a very confident young gun-dog handler… until his dog decided to poo mid retrieve and pee up Archie’s shoe. At least Archie had fun (secretly a bit miffed that he missed out on getting selected to go to the finals in September).
We also managed to find a replacement ‘Mallard Duck’ Toy for the dog. Her former precious ‘duckie’ toy had previously met with an unfortunate ending involving a petrol lawnmower…we are still too traumatised to talk about it. Becks seems very happy with the plump replacement and calm has been restored once more.
Now for the moaning bit (I promise it is only a VERY SMALL part of our otherwise lovely day).
The walk to the toilets was ridiculous. They had 3 toilets sections (4 disabled) within the set up of Countryfile and they were either end of the park! BIG ERROR in my eyes.
I really felt sorry for those with pushchairs and wheelchairs because the access between stalls and the uneven ground just wasn’t working. I almost got run over on the bridge because the woman in an electric wheelchair lost control in the crown coming over the bridge skidding with cm to spare before she took me out.
We couldn’t even get into the Village Green area to sample food. The stalls were too close together with the walkways and passages too narrow and it became so grid locked that we abandoned it altogether.
As for the animals on Adams Farm; Well it would have been nice to have seen them. We couldn’t get anywhere near them because again the set up was so small, that the crowds of people in the small tents made it impossible to move. The rabbits were trying to hide inside the hay-bales because of the amount of children trying to handle them and when we did get in there they had stopped any handling of the chicks as they were becoming too stressed.
Enough of the moaning.
We did eat some nice lunch, Archie had a pancake, I had a gourmet hot dog (not ideal for my diet) and Roger had a Curried Lamb Slice. Followed by some lovely cake.
I wish we had spent more time in the National Trust area near to the lake. In my opinion they had it just right. There was loads of activities for the kids to do within the shade of the trees and I only wish we had discovered it a couple of hours earlier.
It was a good day out but not great! Partly our own fault. We spent far too long in the Dog Area and missed so many other things. Archie enjoyed the activities in the dog arena and seeing him actually in the area showed his growing confidence so we can’t beat ourselves up too much. However we DID miss so many other activities. I really feel like we needed at least another day to spend exploring all the other things, we never even got to see in the Main arena.
I think that Countryfile have a great idea, they just need to fine tune it better and make it flow and easier to use for wheelchairs and pushchairs. Signage around the area was poor and It did worry me as a parent that if Archie lost us, he wouldn’t even be able to find the ‘meeting point’ we set (Just if he got lost). That’s how confusing the layout was. I feel like I missed out on seeing a lot of the stuff just because I couldn’t get near to it. Borderline utter chaos in some areas due to the amount of people whilst other areas seemed empty.
It is Countryfile’s first year of doing it live and I hope they come back fighting with it bigger and better next year.
On the plus side I took the camera off Auto Setting and practised my photography skills and found the most amazing ‘dream garden building’ (which will remain only a dream).
I would still love to come back next year and really plan it and explore, but I think that I will struggle persuading the husband so we shall see. Perhaps we will camp and spend more time here because there really is much more to see than we had the time to do.
P.S I managed to sort the Dungaree issue in the toilets. So no wet straps or tripping over.