What’s on : racing, country shows and festivals to fill your weekends

Remarkably, there’s still a gap in the online market for a comprehensive, easy-to-use and reliable website for rural events. In its absence, try the events section of www.countryside-alliance.org.uk, plus www.basc.org.uk for shooting matters, also www.ukgamefairs.com and www.countrysideonline.co.uk. The horse world is better served: through the modernised www.pointtopoint.co.uk site, which offers maps, going reports and video highlights, plus www.horseracing.co.uk and www.britisheventing.com. For a really thorough listing, including county shows, try www.horseandhound.co.uk You can also wade through the individual websites of historic properties under www.nationaltrust.org.uk, www.hha.org.uk and www.english-heritage.org.uk for forthcoming festivals, lectures and other more esoteric and traditional happenings. Your local council website should also list events-visit www.villagesonline.com to find community websites

Clothes: look the part on the hunting field and in the winner’s enclosure

The appropriately named The Hunting Ground www.thehuntinground.net is a useful gateway to various businesses supplying the country market. It will lead you to sites such as www.huntingstockmarket.co.uk, which has everything the hunting man needs, as well as where to go to get it repaired, and www.fieldandcountryantiques.co.uk, which has a comprehensive database of where to buy vintage hunting clothes and memorabilia. Perhaps the most useful directories for smart country clothing, however, are the tradestand listings from Badminton www.badminton-horse.co.uk and Burghley www.burghley-horse.co.uk horse trials and, when it’s put up later this year, the CLA Game Fair www.gamefair.co.uk. Memorable and significant presents of family-crest jewellery -pendants, cufflinks, signet rings-can be found at Heraldia www.heraldia.co.uk, and hats for all occasions-from Ascot creations to flat caps-can be ordered from Social Season Hatters www.skhats.co.uk

Gardening: seeds and plants to fill your garden and delight your wildlife

The RHS www.rhs.org.uk is still the über port of call for many, but among the highest-quality seed sellers are Thompson&Morgan www.thompson-morgan.com, established in 1855; Hillier www.hillier.co.uk, for shrubs; and Chiltern Seeds www.chilternseeds.co.uk, which this year has more than 150 reintroductions, plus thousands of rare and exotic species. There’s a big drive to improve Britain’s ponds, and Clearwater www.clearwaterplm.com and Kingcombe Aquacare www.kingcombe.com are among the companies that champion environmentally friendly methods of building. If your lawn looks sad, you can get a free survey from www.greenthumb. co.uk, and you can find a tree surgeon at www.treesurgery.com. Advice on authentic wildflower planting is available from www. floralocale.org and the excellent charity Plantlife www.plantlife.org.uk. The altruistic Habitat Aid www.habitataid.co.uk offers heritage and wildlife-friendly plants and trees, and gives half its profits to charity

Farming and animals: solving problems with Defra, buying rare breeds and finding tools

For a practical, if not so pretty, site that unravels the mysteries of Defra acronyms and such skills as dry-stone walling, and also has links to useful books for sale on Amazon and agricultural land for sale, visit www.hobbyfarming.co.uk. The online version of Country Smallholding www.countrysmallholding.com is also hugely useful, as are www.poultryclub.org, www.domestic-waterfowl. co.uk (for ducks) and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust www.rbst.org.uk, which will point you in the direction of breed societies and livestock auctions for cows, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry. There’s a massive online tool store at www.thesitebox.com and advice on living the Good Life at www.self-sufficiency-guide.com and www.downsizer.net To find a rescue dog of any breed, the place to go is www.dogpages.org.uk, which lists the numerous societies re-homing everything
from a schnauzer to a spaniel. Also, www.vethelpdirect.com has a vet-finder service, plus a diagnosis section for ailments relating to everything from lizard skin problems to bird-of-prey talons

Restoration and house: crafts, conservation and contractors for your dream home

The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust www.qest.org.uk offers scholarships in oft-forgotten crafts and has a comprehensive set of links to heritage and craft organisations. The website www.antiques.co.uk has a register of stolen items, as well as an excellent ‘find a conservator’ link if you need anything from marble to taxidermy cleaned up. To get a grant to thatch your house, visit www.thatched-group.com, and, to negotiate the minefield of correct thatching materials, visit www.smmasterthatchers.co.uk To register for RIBA’s ‘Architect in the House’ scheme, which starts on April 19, and offers free consultations in return for a £40 donation to Shelter, visit www.architectinthehouse.org.uk. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings www.spab.org.uk has plenty of helpful do-it-yourself advice and advertises courses on specific treatment of different period buildings; www. buildingconservation.com performs a similarly useful function. Also, for a list of craftsmen and contractors who are peer-reviewed for listed-buildings work, visit a new site, www.projectbook.co.uk. For notification of local auctions, visit www.thesaleroom.com, and, finally, for inspiration, try our sister sites www.housetohome.co.uk or www.thehousedirectory.com. These have comprehensive directories of interior- and garden-design companies, and the teams will answer queries such as where to find cane for an old chair or which shops sell feather-filled eiderdowns. Finally, our very own www.countrylife.co.uk, which has new country houses for sale added daily, has a mechanism whereby you can enter area, price and postcode to find your dream house

Food: where to buy everything from veal and cheese to smoked fish and wine

The site www.localfoodadvisor.com will locate native meat and poultry suppliers and BigBarn www.bigbarn.co.uk can recommend the nearest farm shop, but, for a different experience of buying local food online, try Marcus Carter’s Virtual Farmers’ Market www.vfmuk.com. He set it up when working on his market stall at the Partridges Farmer’s Market in Chelsea, London SW3. The site collects together all things locally produced in the same place and puts you in touch with the producer. Explore the market by navigating round the stalls, ‘meet’ the producers via video streams and buy the products. For veal or a special joint, try www. allensofmayfair.co.uk, for seasonal meat, visit www.blackface.co.uk, and for all things fishy (plus other delicious things), we like www.formanandfield.com and www.smokedsalmon.co.uk. Get into the game-eating zeitgeist by visiting www.game-to-eat.co.uk, which has recipes and dealers. The undisputed cheese people are Neal’s Yard www.nealsyarddairyshop.co.uk, and our sister magazine Decanter www.decanter.com can find your nearest wine merchant. The Wholesome Food Association can recommend
high-quality local food www.wholesomefood.org, as can the campaigning organic organisation the Soil Association www. soilassociation.org. Finally, where WaitroseDeliver www.waitrosedeliver.com doesn’t reach, Ocado www.ocado.com can. And, when things get desperate, the National Trust www.nationaltrust.org.uk runs foraging courses

Field sports: fishing, shooting and hunting, plus classic sporting memorabilia

For enticing sporting holidays and lets, try Roxtons www.roxtons.com. The admirable Casting for  Recovery www.castingforrecovery.org.uk offers fishing for women who have or have had breast cancer, and the useful www.gunsonpegs.com aims to do what it says-fit guns to pegs. To brush up on technique, or offer a shooting/fishing lesson as a present, visit www.hollandandholland.com, www.fishinglessons.co.uk or www.goflyfishinguk.com. The Royal Berkshire Shooting School’s www.rbss.co.uk services include innovative clay days for charity or celebratory occasions, and, if you’re thinking of visiting another pack of hounds for a change of scenery, the new online www.bailyshuntingdirectory.com has contact details, recommended hunter hireling centres and all sorts of interesting local knowledge. For sporting antiques, such as hunting whips, we recommend www.sportingcollection.com, plus regional auction houses such as Lawrences in the South-West www.lawrences.co.uk and Cheffins of East Anglia www.cheffins.co.uk, gun specialists Holts www.holtsauctioneers.com and, for bi-annual fishing-tackle auctions, visit www.angling-auctions.com

Miscellaneous: everything from true love and out-of-print books to presents and post

Atone for a fruitless Valentine’s Day by visiting the heart-warming dating site www.justwoodlandfriends.com/JWF.html, which attempts to unite farmers, keepers and horsewomen; the sociable www.muddymatches.co.uk; or the new www.kissinggates.com, which
has a special farmer-dating section. Hassled mothers and hostesses can find succour with a reputable nanny agency through www. nannyjob.co.uk and www.bunburyagency.com or sporting cooks at Lumleys www.lumleyscooks.co.uk. A brilliant site for tracking out-of-print books is www.bookfinder.com; you can replace those annoying missing pieces of a dinner service at www.chinasearch. co.uk; Ordnance Survey www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk can create bespoke maps with your house as the central point; and, for that memorable house party in a castle, lighthouse or keep, visit the Landmark Trust www.landmarktrust.org.uk. The Present Finder www.thepresentfinder.co.uk does exactly what it says: provide original ideas for all categories of difficult recipient, and the Tottering-by-Gently team www.tottering.com has wonderfully apt cartoon prints for wedding presents and anniversaries. If you still don’t own a sat-nav, the AA’s routefinder www.theaa.com only needs a postcode to map a route and, on the subject of postcodes, when Christmas-card writing time comes, visit http://postcode.royalmail.com for missing postcodes. Never has it been easier to take advantage of that old adage about one man’s junk being another’s treasure. Freecycle www.uk.freecycle.org is growing its regional reach day by day, and loves old computers and television equipment. Additionally, www.recyclenow.com tells you what items you can throw in the recycling bags and bins based on your postcode. For all things British and beautiful, from gifts and homeware to producers, visit www.frombritainwithlove.com

  • John Fox

    A very useful guide to sites of interest to the rural community. Some of the links are a bit tenuous, and the actual benefit to a rural community is negligible in a couple of others, eg “where WaitroseDelivers does not, Ocado does”. That is simply not the case (unfortunately).