Looking for a dog-friendly family day out?
Over the last couple of years, as a dog owner, I’ve been introduced to the world of country shows as an option not only to enjoy a range of entertainment but some fantastic activities, food and drink!! I’ve become hooked and every year, I sit down in May and plan out which shows I could attend, particularly looking at which traders and activities were being offered so that I can mix and match for the perfect dog-friendly family day out right here on our doorstep in Essex.
With Essex boasting miles of rural, beautiful countryside, there isn’t a shortage of locations. From the rolling countryside of North Essex, which is the most rural in Essex, to the Essex and Suffolk borders in the beautiful ‘Constable Country’. Wherever you are, you can be sure that very near you are wide open spaces and these country shows create a great reason to explore.
With a growing number of shows whether they be country, craft or dog specific, it can be hard to distinguish the good from the not so good. If you have found the time to co-ordinate diaries, herd the kids (and possibly the dog) into the car and travel to the event, you want to be sure that you are going to have a good day. Value and making the most of your time together are everything when it comes to family.
So grab a pew and a cup of tea, here are my Best 5 Country Shows in Essex. You’ll spot Millie had to have a say in this one too with her top tip for each show.
(p.s remember if Country Shows aren’t your thing, you can find 15 fun free family days out in Essex Ideas on one of our previous blogs HERE )
#1 Essex Young Farmers Show – Saturday 22nd May 2016
Established for over 30 years, as soon as you walk into the event, you can just feel an amazing atmosphere – it really does hit you as you walk into the entrance. Without fail and regardless of weather, there is just such a buzz about this show which is impossible to capture in words.
It is by far the best organised of all the country shows I’ve attended, with super easy and quick access to parking and small touches like mobility scooters being available. There are also large obvious water stops for dogs around this very large show which attracts around 14,000 visitors in one day and even a Land Train to transport you around the showground.
You’ll find several sections suitable for every part of the family. A great children’s section including rides and games, where you can also let them sit in a fire truck, tractor or meet some animals. An equine area, agricultural display, tea rooms, livestock, craft and food sections. I could go on and on but you really do have to visit to try this out to understand just how fantastic this event is for the family.
As there are several display arenas and you’ll get a free programme guide as you enter – you’ll find yourself having to make choices re what to see as the quality and standards are high.
The Essex Young Farmers should be very proud of what they do and the atmosphere they manage to create year on year! I dare you to try and come home having bought nothing and not enjoyed this event (I’d personally recommend finding Slamsey’s Gin in the food tent – surely mum and dad deserve a treat post keeping the kids occupied for a day)?
Millie’s Top Tip – make sure you pull your owners over to the gun dog section. You’ll find some ‘have a go’ areas and the display teams will find the time to talk and give you advice on some different types of training. Whilst they are chatting, I always get to show off finding dummies behind camouflaged bushes – I like to try the hard options (there is normally a treat at the end after all)!
Where: Boyton Hall, Roxwell A1060, CM1 4LN
Times: 9.30am – 5.00pm
Prices: Adults £14, Concession £10, Children 15 and under go free
Follow: on Twitter @EssexYFCShow
#2 Blackwater Country Show – Sunday 19th June 2016
Another great family day out, where there is one very huge lake in the middle of this event that creates a spectacular backdrop to this country show. It also allows the show to stand out from others by offering canoeing, kayaking, gun dog scurry and fly-fishing – all with demonstrations.
In the main ring, you’ll find entertainment and displays but one of my favourite parts of this show is that they have a field sports area. Here you can have-a-go at Clay Shooting and Archery – I’m terrible at both, but great fun!
The whole event is really geared around the outdoors and letting people of all ages try activities they may not have before from those on the water to heavy horses – an interactive approach to learning at a show helps make it not just about trade stands and displays.
This family day out isn’t just limited to the two-legged family members – there are agility courses, fast action flyball and a novelty dog show too along with several traders.
Another show with a ‘special’ meaning for me too – this the show where I started my journey with Millie’s Beach Huts – when I first attended the Blackwater Country Show back in 2014, the St Oysths beach huts were for sale and advertised here. Whilst I didn’t take it any further that day, the seed had been planted (and I also discovered those huge deckchairs too!).
Millie’s Top Tip – there’s a lake, there’s a lovely man who’ll shoot balls into the islands in the lake and let me swim to retrieve them… do I really need to say more??
Where: Chigborough Road, Heybridge, Maldon, Essex CM9 4RB
Times: 10.00am – 5.00pm
Prices: On the day Adults £9, Children £4. Family tickets available.
#3 Essex Dog Show – Sunday 28th August 2016
Having lived in Witham, I found this show by accident thanks to the huge advertising signs that tend to pop up on the A12. As with the Blackwater Country Show above, this dog show has a special place in my heart as Millie came 2nd in the “Prettiest Bitch in Essex competition in 2014. One proud doggy mum!
You may wonder why I’ve included this with the other larger country shows?? Isn’t it a dog show? Well, it’s held in stunning grounds of a privately owned Georgian House and there is a whole arena dedicated to similar demonstrations to that of other shows (Police Dog Unit, Birds of Prey, Sheep Dog and Geese). I think this show gives you a great opportunity to see some of the country show displays at a smaller event and one that you can indulge in your love of dogs. Win win (oh and they donate ALL of their proceeds to local charities).
It’s is a smaller show compared to the others that I’ve recommend here but out of all the dog based shows I’ve attended, the atmosphere and mix of activities to try out is the best including agility, scurry (water based – it’s great fun!!), obedience, agility and flyball.
There is a good food section which doesn’t dominate the show and you’ll find children’s rides and activities spread throughout too, making it possible to satisfy all of the family.
As you’d expect there is a great range of dog related traders from specialist food to toys and leads/collars. However, one of the key reasons I attend this particular shows is due to the fact that Holly and Lil, one of our favourite dog collar suppliers attends. We have never quite managed to attend and not buy Millie a new collar. Do go say hi if you attend.
Millie’s Top Tip – The competitions are hugely popular and last year, they started a new process where you can download the form and use a fast pass lane upon arrival. Do take advantage of this and avoid the large queues, particularly for the early competitions. You can then pull your owner over to the lake for a go at the scurry. Water and Tennis Balls = one happy Millie!
Where: The Crix, Hatfield Peveral, Essex
Times: 10.00am to 5pm
Prices: Adults £7, Concessions £5. Family Tickets available.
#4 Orsett Show – 3rd September 2016
One of the oldest shows in Essex, 2016 will be the 110th Orsett Show, and set in 30 acres of Essex countryside around 11,000 people attend this country show each year.
Whilst held later in the year compared to many of the other shows, one of the best things about this show is that they work with local residents, allotment owners, schools and farmers who all take part in the Orsett Show. There is a spectacular ring dedicated purely to Horses (aptly named the Horse Ring) and last year, I had great fun watching The Circus Company in a Circus Ring – juggling, devil sticks, spinning plates and stilts!
If you are feeling adventurous there are also helicopter rides! You can book these in advance and around £40 per person for a 4-5 minute ride.
Along with classic cars and steam trains, you’ll find all the normal trade stands and displays whilst dog owners were offered micro-chipping and nail clipping by local vets alongside a fun dog show. We didn’t enter this last year but there is a good range of competition classes including Young Handler and the prettiest dog/bitch.
If you live in the Thurrock area, a printed schedule does normally appear in local shops, libraries and post offices throughout Thurrock, so you can grab one in advance.
Millie’s Top Tip – the A13 and lakeside area can be busy at weekends, I try to make mum arrive really early to limit my time stuck in the car. I’m always super excited to arrive at a country show as it is!! I’m also not used to being around horses, so mum likes to walk me around the arena to tire me out before walking around this section.
Where: Orsett, near Grays, in Thurrock, Essex, RM16 3JU
Times: yet to be released.
Prices: yet to be released.
#5 Robin Hood Game and Country Show/All About Dogs Show – 1st and 2nd May 2016
My first-ever country show experience and being the largest regional event – it was huge!!! Whilst I first attended on a cold wet day in 2014, this two-day event really didn’t disappoint and the main reason I started to look at attending more country shows that year.
Just off the M25, its really easy to get to and have always found the event very well laid out with easy access and exits and great parking.
There are always at least two arenas, one dedicated to displays and the second area to dog competitions and dog related demonstrations. You’ll find food stalls and a craft tent around the main arena, with plenty of dog related exhibitors around the All About Dogs arena.
You’ll find numerous rides, bouncy castles, orbs on water and have some go activities for all the family. 2016 even had robotics!! The variety of displays and exhibitors is fantastic and as you may have guessed by the name, you’ll get to see some jousting too.
I’d personally recommend popping into see the amazing Country and Twee – Millie loves their winter coats and they are super helpful finding the right size. There are also lots of activities to try with your dog including agility and flyball.
One of my favourite memories of this event is meeting our new Virtual Assistant Maggie and her family at this event when I exhibited there in 2015. Who’d have thought one booking would turn into a business relationship too!
Note that whilst this year’s show has already passed, Aztec the event organisers due run others across the county. You can find the full list HERE (including flowers and dog only related events).
Millie’s Top Tip – whilst there is a charge, don’t let your mum or dad miss the K9 competition. I love jumping into the water for a tennis ball and if you aren’t as brave as me, there is a kind man who helps ease you into the water so that you can try it out. I came 2nd in a heat last year, but well I do tend to belly-flop (please don’t laugh at me!)
Where: Brentwood Centre, Doddinghurst Road, Brentwood, Essex. CM15 9NN
Times: 10 am to 5 pm.
Prices: Adults £10, Children £9.00, Children (5-16) £5.00, Children under 5 are free.
Not yet found your ideal family day out?
You may find the below site very useful where you can search for events or our previous blog on free family days out ideas.
Visit Essex – http://www.visitessex.com/events/
15 Free Family Days out in Essex – https://milliesbeachhuts.co.uk/free-family-day-out-in-essex/
We’d love to know if we’ve missed any great country shows from our list above that you’d recommend – just comment below (and huge thanks for reading)