2011 CLA Game Fair at Blenheim Palace

Again, the crowds thronged (great word throng), upon the CLA with what seemed like thepopulation from a small country in attendance.  In fact it was so busy that many of the stall holders who I spoke to reported that they'd ran out of stock on the Saturday and were only able to take orders!

So why is it so popular?  Well, as the press release said, the CLA Game Fair is a world class event attracting 148,500 visitors over three days, and with over 900 exhibition stands, country sports and countryside activities including angling, shooting, gun dog and falconry demonstrations, championships, competitions and tuitions, phew!

And it's not all demonstrations either, there's literally hundreds of interactive 'have a go' opportunities from fishing, archery, clay shooting and dog events to quad biking, aerial trekking, mountain boarding!

So, apart from enjoying the fantastic atmosphere and hopefully finding the odd bargain, I had to keep reminding myself that I had a job to do that entailed searching out interesting products that would interest you, our dear reader, as well as having a nosey at other peoples 'Rovers!  

After signing in at the press tent we went for a general wander and the first thing I noticed was the diverse collection of companies selling their wares, from guns, clothing, boats, fine art and full size snooker tables!  Yes, the CLA is the only show I've been to that has trade tents with full size snooker tables in them, beautiful ones at that!  I also noticed, whilst noseying behind the stands that there was a good selection of Solihull products being used by the exhibitors.  Well I say good selection, amongst the odd Range Rover and Defender, the most common vehicle that traders used was the Series 2 Discovery, at least one around every corner!

One particular Discovery 2 owning couple I spoke to was Richard and Lesley and from Rack & Ruin.  Richard told me that before his Discovery he bought his first new Range Rover.  Although it was a fantastic vehicle it was always going back to the dealer for this, that or the other.  He was so fed up with it that he part exchanged it after only three years of ownership and lost £25,000 in depreciation... madness, that's how much I paid for my house!

On the far side of the grounds near the shooting arena was the Land Rover off road demonstration area where enthusiastic crowds queued up for ages for the opportunity to grab a seat in either a 110, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover or a Discovery that Land Rover had brought.  It was a lot more interesting and thought out than last year with the vehicles winding in and out of trees as well as driving over a house.

Looking across the hillside to the shooting arena stood, amongst a couple of Evoques and a Range Rover that were permanently surrounded by interested onlookers, a lonely 90, so I went over and showed it some attention.  Though I soon got drawn into the excitement and abandoned the poor 90 and wandered over to the Evoques for a chance to sit in one.  Not only do they look fantastic, they feel great inside too, though I still think they look like a Volkswagen Scirocco on steroids!

Just like the off road track, trying to get near the Land Rover stand was next to impossible, everyone wanted to look at the Evoques.  A nice touch was that next to the stand Land Rover had organised complimentary food and drinks to be served out of an old Airstream caravan, as long asyou showed your Land Rover key fob.  Free food always tastes better!

You really do have to take your time around the CLA otherwise you'll miss some amazing companies.  Amongst the companies who told me they'd run out of stock on the Saturday was Matthew Pope who'd sold out of his fantastic Cobb BBQ, I'm not surprised really, it's a cool devise, just check out their website and watch the short videosor my review.

Twisted had some of their fine Defenders on show, my favourite was the Colemans mustard coloured rag topped 90, it even had leather Door trims.  I left them thinking that I really do need to earn some more money, or win the lottery to afford one of their fantastic vehicles.

As Blenheim Palace is a fair trek from Bolton, we decided to drag our newly acquired caravan down and enjoy a bit of luxury for a change during our overnight stay.  The campsite was well organised and flat, which is always good for a campsite, but it was a fair distance from the show itself.

On the Sunday we had the privilege of sitting next to Bernard Cribbins, and what a lovely chap he is too.  On the subject of famous people, during the afternoon Karen Lee nearly walked into David Cameron who, like everyone else, was enjoying the atmosphere with his family... and bodyguards.

I don't know if it's just me, but there's something about the fashion of girls wearing extremely short shorts and expensive wellies, not that I'm complaining mind, though I did get the odd slap from Karen Lee for apparently gawping!

This year I was very impressed with the amount of clothing manufactures present, and I don't just mean the tweed variety either, but hard wearing outdoor stuff because even if you're shooting, walking, fishing or in our case laning, trials or spectating then quality clothing is important.

I had a good chat to David Brayshaw from www.jeffgreen.eu about their range of outdoor clothing, and after trying on their Galway fleece jacket I was very impressed with it's quality and design. Check out their website, they have some great items on offer for whether you're setting off on an expedition or simply going to work in the city.

If you're the type of person who wears nothing but jeans you'll know what they're like after a downpour.  'Splash Clothing' have a solution for you with their water repellent jeans.  Using a complexed polymer impregnation process means that their jeans, and jodhpurs are completely water repellent.  For the whole weekend they had a pair of their jeans constantly under a hose pipe and water simply poured off like water off a ducks back.

Barbour was also on hand showing off their collection of sporting clothing, and let's face it, when it comes to jackets and who can argue that a wax jacket and a Land Rover don't go together!  But Barbour are much more than wax jackets, and their full range of outdoor clothing oozes history and heritage, just like our favourite 4x4.

Millican is a contemporary travel and outdoor brand that I immediately fell for.  Based in the Lake District it takes it's name from the life and values of Millican Dalton, a local legend who lived a life of simplicity and self sufficiency as a cave dwelling Lakeland guide in the early 1900's.  Each bag in their range is based on a proven classic and made with sustainable materials such as organic canvas, recycled polyester and Lakeland wool.  Their bags won't look out of place in the back of your 'Rover, whether you have an old Series or a new Vogue!  Check out their website at www.homeofmillican.com and be amazed!

Fjällräven was at the show too.  Now you can be forgiven for not knowing who Fjällräven are, I didn't!  Fjällräven develop clothing that make it easier for people to enjoy nature, and they've been doing so for more than 50 years.  Since then they have been developing outdoor equipment with the goal of making nature more accessible for more people.  Their clothing range looks tough and dependable.

So there you go, three days of tromping around fields, popping into over 900 trade stands, watching all sorts of demonstrations as well as talking to loads of interesting folk condensed into less than a couple of thousand words, I really can't do the CLA justice.  I'm sure there's plenty of things I've missed out, like why the Oxford Gun Company had a couple of clay pigeon traps attached to the top of their G4 Discovery.

To summarise then, the CLA isn't just about young trendy types in tweed hot pants and mini skirts, it's a cracking day out, or weekend get away for the entire family, and even if you're not into country sports, there's still plenty of things to do and enjoy.