We visited BBC Countryfile: Live's first event in Yorkshire at the stunning Castle Howard!

By Jonathan Reed

15 August 2019

Photography supplied by © Reed Gallery

Not all those who wander are lost.’

Six-million viewers tune in each week to hear about the world of Britain’s countryside. They listen and watch as Matt Baker, John Craven, Anita Rani, Ellie Harrison, Adam Henson and Tom Heap pour over the ins and outs of how the countryside is evolving and responding to social issues across the United Kingdom. For the last four years, BBC’s Countryfile has brought their homely touch to the majesty of Blenheim Palace with their four-day extravaganza – Countryfile Live. Last week, for the first time ever, they headed to Yorkshire and more specifically, Castle Howard.

First and foremost, it’s always best to get the negative out of the way, and on day one of Countryfile Live’s first exploration into the rolling hills of the Yorkshire countryside, the infamous A64 dual carriageway became the overwhelming centre of conversation. Due to the thousands of motorists making their way to the iconic Castle Howard, the sheer number caused tailbacks reportedly 10-miles long. Those guests travelling from Leeds to the event were left queuing in standstill traffic for over 3-hours.

Many fans took to twitter to vent their frustrations at the handling of the pre-planned travel arrangements. Upon leaving Castle Howard after the event, once again it took over 3-hours for some guests to make it home. It has left event organisers seriously questioning how they approach getting guests to and from the event next time around, and here’s hoping there is a vast improvement.

Away from the roads and travel chaos, the event itself has been received much more positively and upon our visit it was easy to see why.

The splendour of Castle Howard is a perfect backdrop for Countryfile Live. It flawlessly encapsulates the uniqueness of country living; the rugged elements of nature against the grandeur of one of Yorkshire’s most enduring heritage sites. Castle Howard also provided the vast space needed to involve the hundreds of exhibitors. And Countryfile Live showcased the best Yorkshire and beyond has to offer!

From local exhibitors including York Gin, Yorkshire Tea, Welcome To Yorkshire, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to name a few, it was wonderful to see an eclectic mix of regional industries standing alongside more nationally recognised brands. Naturally the BBC was in attendance, as well as the RSBP, Pimms, Jessops and of course a Castle Howard exhibit.

These stalls made up a small variety of what was on show across the event, with a small traditional funfair, including a Carousel and Ferris Wheel. There was also sheep shearing, a makeshift pub, ‘The Cravern Arms’ to grab a quick pint in and an impressive showcase by Jaguar’s Land Rover.

But against the mechanical machinery of the modern world, the more traditional countryside was also on display. A small farmyard had been created displaying all manner of farmyard animals from sheep, piglets, cows and horses. Understandably this was a dream for the younger guests.

Another aspect of the countryside which was heavily featured was, of course, food. There were stall after stall of local produce with farmers serving delicious burgers, sausages, steaks, pork and poultry from across the region.

Heresford Butchers served a stunning beef burger with lime relish and salad that melted in your mouth. Not surprisingly it was a hugely popular stall, but perfectly showcased why produce from independent butchers far outrivals more mainstream and commercial options.

In essence, this narrative was woven throughout the entire Countryfile event; that there is a local industry out there which is not only cheaper than the mainstream option, but better and friendlier to the environment. Countryfile Live should be commended for advocating this message so unashamedly and promoting an industry which all our local communities can benefit from.

Obviously, this is BBC’s Countryfile Live, an event in honour of the iconic Sunday night show, therefore it wouldn’t be right if the stars were not in attendance. And all the big hitters were here.

A small stage beautifully decorated with flowers featured the Countryfile presenters interviewing each other and taking a selection of questions from the audience. It was both deeply insightful but also demonstrated the commitment that the BBC has to preserving our sacred countryside and communities. And no subject was not covered with even Brexit appearing in a question to Matt Baker, John Craven and Tom Heap.

All three navigated the question on whether Boris Johnson would support the countryside community through Brexit with ease, though Matt Baker made the case that he was assured the Prime Minister recognises the importance of the countryside and those who maintain it.

© Reed Gallery

Elsewhere Anita Rani was interviewing Ray Mears on his career as a survival expert in the National Trust Arena, and Loose Women panellist and former Newspaper editor, Janet Street-Porter, was discussing her own career and love of the countryside on the Top-Hat stage.

It was uplifting to see so many well-known faces actively engaging with those who attended whether it be through selfies, answering questions or simply discussing Yorkshire and what it has to offer. And at its core Countryfile Live truly captured that sentiment.

Yorkshire truly does have an abundance of wonder, industry and adventure to offer not only nationally but internationally. Choosing Castle Howard is symbolic towards that sentiment, but showcases the small unknown businesses to show how imaginative and industrial Yorkshire is.

It was also wonderful to see how many people supported the event, and in addition the Yorkshire region with numbers estimated at 15,000 attending only on the first day! BBC Countryfile Live deputy event director stated that they had been “overwhelmed by the support and warmth by the people in Yorkshire and we’ll be announcing plans for the future in the coming weeks.”

We now know that those ‘plans’ are to bring Countryfile Live back to Castle Howard next year, such was the success of their first. The news has been received with much fanfare as many are relieved to see Yorkshire showcased for its diverse countryside. So, bring on the Yorkshire grub, the spectacular backdrop of Castle Howard and the engaging BBC Countryfile presenters! We can’t wait to celebrate all things countryside next year.

Just maybe reorganise the traffic.

Thanks to BBC Countryfile Live, Castle Howard, The National Trust and all their wonderful staff for all their help!

See more pictures in our gallery below.