We’ve been camping in the beautiful grounds of Blenheim Palace this week, enjoying the Countryfile Live festival and having loads of outdoor fun. Absolutely exhausted now but it was totally worth it…
I still have to pinch myself that three years after Bake Off I get to do such cool stuff. This week, my family and I went to Blenheim Palace for the Countryfile Live festival. We’d visited for the day last year but there was so much to do we were really keen to stay for longer this time.
I was invited to do a couple of baking demonstrations and signings of my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, on Chef Brian Turner’s ‘Food Heroes’ stage at the show. This was pretty apt, as Brian Turner is absolutely one of my food heroes. For the benefit of my blog readers outside of the UK, Brian is an absolute legend in the food industry and it was an honour to be on his stage. He has been one of the most famous TV chefs of the past 25 years and I’ve grown up watching him cook. He specialises in great British food, using local ingredients and making traditional recipes taste fantastic. While he’s originally from Yorkshire, he now lives about ten minutes away from me, and incredibly, he remembered the bakery I was a Saturday boy in over 25 years ago. He was a fantastic host and made my kids feel really welcome too.
Even though I’m a fourth-generation Londoner, I feel much more at home in the countryside, which is one of the main reasons I studied Biodiversity & Conservation at university, specialising in urban woodlands and habitats. Half of Countryfile‘s viewers are from urban areas too – I’m not the only one hankering for the great outdoors – so the event was a real mix of people, and certainly quite a few Bake Off fans there. I’ve nearly lost my voice this weekend from chatting to such amazing and interesting people for four days. There was so much incredible food and produce and I breakfasted this morning on a huge plate of ribs (above) down by the lake – pretty perfect Sunday.
I was glad to be invited to demo at the event, but best of all, my friends at STIHL invited my family to camp with them for the week. I’d first met the STIHL team at Countryfile Live the year before, where they introduced me to Timbersports for the first time. Since then, I’ve worked with them on a few fun projects, including the cake above, modelled on my own STIHL chainsaw (the video on how I made it is here) and then last Christmas I built them a gingerbread house in the woods, based on the buildings where STIHL’s headquarters is in Germany:
Then earlier this year, STIHL invited me to their Timbersports training camp, which was an incredible experience and I blogged about it for them here. For the uninitiated, Timbersports is a bit like the World’s Strongest Man contest, but with axes and chainsaws instead. It’s so much fun to watch. Countryfile Live is now the home to the annual British Timbersports Championships, and yesterday’s competition was a real nailbiter, down to the final chop of the final event to decide the winner, who will now go on to the World Championships in Norway later this year. Timbersports is growing in the UK but it’s huge internationally, and the finals will be held in a stadium in front of an audience of thousands.
The best thing about camping with the STIHL team was that my family and I got to hang out backstage with them and the Timbersports athletes during Countryfile Live. After the show closed each night, we returned to the STIHL stand for dinner and drinks, and our kids and the other STIHL-family children all made firm friends and had the run of the showground to play each evening. They had the time of their lives jumping over hay bales and playing games, even our youngest STIHL fan (pictured above) loved it!
If you’re thinking of visiting Countryfile Live with the family next year I would really recommend camping, which is organised for them by the Camping & Caravanning Club. There really is just too much to do in just a day and even with four days there, we didn’t get a chance to see everything. But as the pictures above show, it certainly wore my little urchins out! Of the girls’ favourite things to do, all of them were free, see below:
The kids were also delighted by the animal shows – dog agility trials, pony and cart races, bird of prey displays, sheep dogs herding ducks, etc. There were fairground rides and loads of games for kids to play, as well as craft tents run by the National Trust. Our eldest daughter got such a bug for kayaking from the free sessions run by British Canoeing that she’s really keen to have further lessons, which she can start locally when she turns nine next year, and I’m quite keen to join her too. And both our elder daughters got totally star-struck when they met Anita Rani (below), who they recognised from Strictly Come Dancing rather than from Countryfile.
All-in-all we had a wonderful few days together as a family and were all so grateful to get the chance to stay for so long. A final tip from me, if you’re taking young kids to a festival at any point, grab yourselves one of these folding trolleys (above), as it came in so handy for our younger daughters all weekend. We got ours from here just this week, but I wish we’d bought a truck-load as so many people stopped us to ask about them that I reckon I’d have made a killing setting up a little stall on the side!
I’m so grateful for the strange turn of events that took me from Bake Off to the life I have now, where we get to have so many fun experiences as a result of my second ‘job’ and that working at events like this provides so much fun for all the family. Next weekend we’re off on our summer holiday to Italy with Eurocamp so depending on the wifi access, it might be a few weeks before I’m able to blog again, but as always I’ll still be on Twitter and Instagram, so follow what I’m up to there. Until then, Happy Summer Holidays and Happy Baking!