Country mouse at the Game Fair

Oh to have been a springer spaniel on a broiling first day of the CLA Game Fair at Ragley Hall! The delicious dark green chill of the leafy glades where the gundog trials took place was as a distant dream for the multitudes perspiring under canvas. The temptation to run headlong into the fishing lake was quite strong, too. Panama-hat purveyors and ice-cream vans did brilliant trade; tweed shops had a slower day. The CLA president kindly decreed an open-neck shirt policy, but Defra Secretary Owen Paterson coolly kept his tie on and set such a relentless pace round the trade stands that lobbyists wilted in his wake.

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As COUNTRY LIFE panellists stoically debated whether we should interfere with Nature, Petworth’s eloquent head keeper David Whitby urged a rapt audience to ‘hug a keeper’, but it was much too hot for anything like that. The already sweltering debating theatre overheated sharply as the RSPCA’s combative chief executive Gavin Grant suggested today’s farmers consider their animals to be production units, rather than pigs and cows. His parting shot was an invitation to the Countryside Alliance’s Sir Barney White-Spunner to join him in forming a trail-hunting association, but there seemed more chance of dogs’ water-bowls freezing over than that happening.

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