Theresa Villiers makes first ministerial visit as Anita Rani and Countryfile Live warm up for Castle Howard show date

BBC Countryfile presenters (left to right) Adam Henson, Ellie Harrison, Charlotte Smith, Anita Rani, Tom Heap, John Craven and Joe Crowley at Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. Picture by Steve Parsons/PA Wire.
BBC Countryfile presenters (left to right) Adam Henson, Ellie Harrison, Charlotte Smith, Anita Rani, Tom Heap, John Craven and Joe Crowley at Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. Picture by Steve Parsons/PA Wire.

Events showcasing the best of the countryside are a vital opportunity to bring people from urban and rural areas together at a crucial time for the farming industry, according to TV presenter Anita Rani.

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May Pole dancers at BBC Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Picture by Steve Parsons/PA Wire.

May Pole dancers at BBC Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Picture by Steve Parsons/PA Wire.

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The Bradford-born broadcaster was speaking from the opening day of Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace, just a fortnight before the show is held in the grounds of Castle Howard near York, and where newly installed Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers was making her first public appearance since replacing Michael Gove in the Ministerial role.

Though the politician’s appearance in Oxfordshire was billed as a “very low key” by her government department, just days after new Prime Minister Boris Johnson used a visit to farmers in Wales to promise them a bright future regardless of the outcome of Brexit, Ms Rani said it was important that figures such as the Secretary of State attend countryside events.

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A calf meeting visitors at Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace. Picture by Steve Parsons/PA Wire.

A calf meeting visitors at Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace. Picture by Steve Parsons/PA Wire.

Ms Rani said: “It is important to get people to come and speak at these events and I think it’s important that she says something.”

Mrs Villiers did give a speech at the event and re-iterated Mr Johnson’s sentiments of a bright future for farming.

She said: “During this time of change for our country there is much to do to ensure we help our rural economy thrive.

“We are giving the very closest attention to the interests of food and farming businesses as we work towards Brexit day. Understandably there are some risks ahead but I want to highlight that these sectors, along with our fishing communities, will also have many opportunities open up to them as we regain the freedom to make our own rules, push forward with an independent trade policy and as we create new world-leading systems to replace the Common Agricultural Policy.”

The Minister said she wanted farmers to be released from the “appalling complexity, rigidity and bureaucracy” of current EU rules via a new support system focused on environmental stewardship and improving the health and welfare of animals.

The political landscape may have changed since Ms Rani appeared at the 161st Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate last month to film for Channel 5’s two-part series on England’s largest agricultural show, but the opportunities afforded by celebrations of the countryside will continue to be huge, the presenter said.

Countryfile Live runs at Blenheim Palace until Sunday before being relocated to Yorkshire. Its first ever northern date will see Ms Rani and the BBC’s other Countryfile presenters – Adam Henson, Tom Heap, John Craven, Ellie Harrison and Charlotte Smith – guest star at an event that will take over the grounds of Castle Howard between August 15 and August 18 and celebrate the Yorkshire countryside.

Ms Rani said she was looking forward to playing a part when the four-day extravaganza is held in her home county.

“It’s such a big success to bring Countryfile Live to Castle Howard and being from Yorkshire myself, it’s going to be special to bring it home.

“I think everybody needs days out for pleasure and Countryfile is a programme created for people living in rural areas and the city – this is a space for them to come together.”

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