To Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, for my first experience of the CLA Game Fair - Europe's largest countryside event. For those who have never been, the Fair is affectionately known as the "Glastonbury" for lovers of all things rural; an epithet that barely does justice to the scale or significance of the event.
Over three days, almost 150,000 people will make the trip to the original - Cotswoldian - Woodstock and experience this paean to all things country. Situated in 95 per cent of the 2,000 acres of 'Capability' Brown landscaped parkland surrounding the sumptuous Palace - the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill - entrants find themselves in the middle of a world where more familiar brands like Barbour and Neal's Yard Dairy, sit alongside specialist country clothing and local farm shops. A world where animals like falcons, spaniels and ferrets aren't pets but colleagues to be nurtured, trained and worked alongside. A world where the countryside is not a vacation but a home and a livelihood.
In other words, a world that is very rarely seen or understood by those who live outside of it. Yet it is also a world on which many seem content to pass judgement and even legislate. This was a point made with some vociferousness by Robin Page - the fiery former presenter of One Man and his Dog - at the Countryside Alliance debate in the Game Fair theatre on Saturday. "The countryside," he stormed "has been Disneyfied. So, while British farmers are on their knees trying to stave off Bovine Tb, the Government doesn't act to avoid being seen as having murdered Tommy Brock."
It was at this stage that Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a local Conservative MP who had been delayed by the huge numbers coming through the gates, was able to take his place on the debate panel. While Page was busy denouncing all politicians as "useless", Clifton-Brown smiled and waited for his chance to respond. When he did, he came up with possibly the most insightful comment of the day; saying that those of us who represent the countryside need to be better at explaining what it is all about.
As I was in the midst of my first taste of the Game Fair, I couldn't help but think that the best way to explain the countryside in the manner described by Geoffrey would be to make a visit to the event mandatory for anyone who wishes to commentate on rural issues. Over the three days, every one of the current Defra ministerial team made a trip around the site, which is to their credit. But there are many others who presume to understand this world - campaigning organisations, quangocrats and even scientists - who wouldn't feel comfortable taking a look at what rural life in Britain is really all about.
The Game Fair is a truly magnificent beast, attended by all ages - from a seven year-old who can identify a species of deer at ten paces; to a seventy year-old who still shoots his dinner during the season. And all classes and wealths - from the planters, tillers and builders to the landowners who employ them. It is not a nostalgic trip down memory lane, as some reading this might think, but a short snapshot of rural Britain in the twenty-first century. And it should be celebrated, experienced but, most importantly, treated with care.