A country fair with a difference
Countryfile Live is more multi-media modern festival than trad country show. It's rocking up in Blenheim Palace soon - we've filleted the best bits for your delectation.
If your prior experience of country fairs involves ferret-racing in a squelchy field where you’re the only person not wearing a Barbour then you’d be forgiven for approaching the whole concept with caution. However, Countryfile Live (Thurs 2 – Sun 5 Aug) shows just how far the country fair has evolved. Now in its second year, it’s held at la-di-da Blenheim Palace for a start and has the kind of modern, multi-faceted arts festival feel, complete with camping options, that appeals to the generation who grew up going to Glastonbury. We reckon it’d make a brilliant family day out so we’ve sniffed out the best bits for you.
There’s an extensive programme of interesting talks – and none of them are about tractors (phew). There’s broadcaster Anne Swithinbank on how to be a laid-back gardener, a highly topical discussion on the problem of single-use plastics and Countryfile presenter Ellie Harrison in conversation. Beg, borrow or steal a ticket to hear Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton on achieving success or Jeremy Paxman on his journalism career – both are sold out but you never know your luck.
Messing about on the river
The River Glyme runs through the palace grounds, so head riverside to have a go at paddle-boarding, canoeing or kayaking – it’s family-friendly and the 20 minute introduction sessions are brilliant for beginners. There’s also a fishing funfair for amateur anglers with a selfie station where you can pose with your catch (Note to self: must remember my plastic halibut).
Indulge your inner Jeremy Clarkson by wearing awful jeans, er, I mean doing the Mitsubishi 4×4 off-road driving experience, where you get to tear around gorgeous fields in a massive car. Which doesn’t sound entirely environmentally friendly but does sound like a helluva lot of fun.
Sexy street food
Modern British menu fatigue? There’s global gallivanting aplenty for adventurous foodies. We’ll be lurking around the street food area scoffing Indonesian veggie dishes, Cuban sandwiches, Portuguese BBQ, and a handmade Scotch egg or two. Wear a billowy kaftan and scoff for Britain.
Hey music lover
We’ll be up the front at the BBC Introducing Stage to check out live sets from the best folk and country newcomers, which is handily located next to the Craven Arms pop-up pub, for all your pint of cider needs. And yes, the Craven Arms, named after Countryfile – and Newsround – legend John, of course.
PS – There’s also a big ol’ party on the Saturday, 6pm-9pm, headlined by country duo The Shires – we wrote about that here.
Got festival fever? Here’s three more in our manor in August…
Wilderness, Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, 3-6 August
Bit posh? Then you’ll love Wilderness, which is a lot more genteel than its name suggests. This year’s bash at the idyllic 400 acre country estate in North Oxfordshire includes an outpost of Petersham Nurseries, a long-table banquet cooked by Ottolenghi and talks hosted by Tate Britain and School Of Life. Rock’n’roll! Music-wise, be sure to catch disco diva ne plus ultra Grace Jones – always an utter mentalist when playing live.
The Big Feastival, Kingham, Chipping Norton, Oxon 25-27 Aug
As the name suggests food is at the centre of this festival held on Blur bassist Alex James’ farm, with turns from Rick Stein, Antonio Carluccio, Gizzi Erskine, Candice Brown and, ahem, DJ BBQ (bit of a berk but great recipes). Not forgetting the various food markets, supper clubs, street food stalls and Alex James’ Cheese Hub (does Alex James make cheese? He never mentions it…) There’s music from Madness, Olly Murs and De La Soul and free day tickets for children aged 12 and under.
Towersey Festival, Towersey, Oxon, 24-27 Aug
Start growing your beard for the folk-tastic Towersey, which takes place over the August bank holiday and is now in its 54th year. Expect turns from The Proclaimers, The Shires, and Richard Thompson; plus a huge children’s programme which includes family yoga, communal bed time stories and circus skills workshops.