Countryfile Live makes northern debut at Castle Howard

Attracting an estimated 15,000 people on its first day alone, the decision to take Countryfile Live north of the Home Counties appears to have proved justified.

Why John Craven is one of the countryside’s finest champions as he returns to his roots for Countryfile – The Yorkshire Post says

John Craven, a former reporter for The Yorkshire Post and a long-serving presenter for BBC's Countryfile, speaking to the public on the opening day of Countryside Live at Castle Howard. Picture by Charlotte Graham.

John Craven, a former reporter for The Yorkshire Post and a long-serving presenter for BBC's Countryfile, speaking to the public on the opening day of Countryside Live at Castle Howard. Picture by Charlotte Graham.

The estate of Castle Howard opened its grounds today to what is believed to be the largest new event held in the North this year.

Although there were early problems caused by severe traffic tailbacks as the four-day countryside celebration got under way, the 18th century stately home provided a glorious backdrop as the show made its northern debut, a fortnight after its annual staging at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

Families picnicked at the lakeside as visitors took to the water in kayaks, children danced around a maypole and croquet games were played on a manicured lawn in front of the house, all while a brass band played amid the nearby hubbub of bustling avenues offering retail therapy.

Notes of the distinctive Countryfile theme tune were drifting out from behind the main stage as the Yorkshire Imperial Urquhart Travel Band warmed up as The Yorkshire Post spoke to some of the stars of the show – the BBC’s Countryfile presenting team – in-between answering questions from an audience of visitors.

Countryfile presenters Matt Baker and Anita Rani play croquet on the lawns at Castle Howard in front of the stately home under the watch of Derek Knight from the Croquet Association. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Countryfile presenters Matt Baker and Anita Rani play croquet on the lawns at Castle Howard in front of the stately home under the watch of Derek Knight from the Croquet Association. Picture by Tony Johnson.

“To come up to Yorkshire is a great pleasure,” said Adam Henson, adding: “There’s every aspect you might see on the TV programme... whether that’s wildlife, farming, controversial issues and debates about the countryside.”

A show of hands from the audience during a turn on stage by Mr Henson suggested about a 50:50 split in urban and rural visitors, and the presenter said he believed an historic divide between people in the countryside and towns and cities is less stark than in the past.

“In today’s society, we’ve got growing gardens in schools, television programmes talking about what’s going on in the countryside and the farming and countryside community is much more engaging with the general public with people from towns and cities, the countryside is much more accessible than it used to be, so I think that divide is shrinking.”

Long-serving Countryfile presenter and a former reporter with The Yorkshire Post, John Craven, has a pub named after him at the event – The Craven Arms.

Pudsey Bear joins in with dancing around the maypole at Countryfile Live at Castle Howard near York. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Pudsey Bear joins in with dancing around the maypole at Countryfile Live at Castle Howard near York. Picture by Tony Johnson.

He said the understanding between urban and rural communities had been fractured ever since the Industrial Revolution.

“Ever since then as people moved away to towns and cities, there has been a divide, there is no doubt about that and we try to bridge that on the programme.”

For the seven presenters in attendance at Castle Howard, including Bradford-born Anita Rani, three more days of on-stage appearances are in store, and Mr Craven said: “Hopefully urban people will get more of an atmosphere of what it’s like to be in the countryside because this is a perfect country show.”

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