Country shows are the catwalks of the agricultural world, from the Suffolk County Show to the Royal Bath & West Show.
Country Shows take place all over England in the summetime. Make sure you put your local show in your diary..
Imagine London Fashion Week, the Cannes Film Festival and Strictly Come Dancing all rolled into one, but with cows, sheep and pigs instead of humans as the subjects of awe and acclamation. The Grand Parade of Livestock at the Royal Bath & West Show is as near as the ovine, bovine and porcine worlds get to their own version of the Oscars and, even to the untutored eye, it features wondrous specimens, shown off in all their natural finery.
The handlers spend hours shampooing, primping and grooming their charges as if they were about to meet The Queen (and, sometimes, they are). They have enough breeding to make a College of Arms genealogist purr and are as fit and well-honed as any rugby prop forward— you should see the muscles on a Belgian Blue bull.
There are several regional shows on the scale of this Somerset agricultural festival on its permanent show site at Shepton Mallet, and the Royal Welsh Show at Builth Wells welcomed nearly a quarter of a million visitors this year.
However, there are many other smaller versions, some with centuries of records, which also seek to bring the countryside together, introduce farming to townsfolk and provide, quite simply, a good, clean, fun day out. They epitomise all that’s best about ‘the country’.
Country shows for your diary in 2016
Devon County Show May 19–21
Celebrating livestock, local food, flowers, gardens and rural skills. Must-sees are the pure-bred Dartmoor ponies and the South Devon Chilli Farm. Held at Westpoint, Clyst St Mary, Exeter.
Suffolk County Show June 1–2
Top-class showjumping, magnificent livestock, birds of prey, working dogs, practical horse demonstrations and clay-pigeon shooting at Trinity Park outside Ipswich. Under-15s go free.
(01473 707110; www.suffolkshow.co.uk)
The Royal Bath & West Show June 1–4
Hosted by the Royal Bath & West of England Society at the Showground in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, in the heart of dairy country, this show now encompasses the British Cheese Awards and is the only four-day agricultural show in the country. Do visit the cider tent.
(01749 822200; www.bathandwest.com)
South of England Show June 9–11
Held at the permanent showground in Ardingly, West Sussex, this show boasts The Queen as its patron and offers more than 700 trade stands. Don’t miss the Shetland Pony Grand National, heavy horses, hound show and showjumping.
(01444 892700; www.seas.org.uk)
Field & Country Fair June 10–12
Held at Cornbury, Oxfordshire, a new event launched by COUNTRY LIFE, The Field and Shooting Times, celebrating the British countryside and field sports.
The Royal Cheshire County Show June 21-22
Once again, Cheshire’s rich farming history will be the focus with competitions for livestock, British Showjumping, dogs, poultry, light and heavy horses, pigeons, rabbits, guinea pigs, dairy goats, sheep and rare breeds.
Explore more than 700 trade stands, sample delicious locally produced gourmet foods, wines and cheeses and farm-fresh produce at the popular Farmers’ Market or take a break and enjoy the musical talents on offer at the Village Green.
Royal Norfolk Show June 29–30
Watch the Household Cavalry Musical Ride, the RAF Falcons Parachute display team and the young handlers’ classes, and visit the Talk Tent and Racing Pigs. Formed to promote a better understanding of food, farming and the countryside.
GWCT Scottish Game Fair July 1–3
Held at Scone Palace in Perthshire and featuring terrier racing, gundog displays, falconry, pipe bands, game, wildlife and countryside management, ‘gnat plane’ shooting and the world of gundogs.
(01738 554826, www.scottishfair.com)
The Cotswolds Show & Food Festival July 2–3
Held at Cirencester Park on the Bathurst estate, home of the chairman, Earl Bathurst, this is a family affair with gun-dog demonstrations, sheep shearing, rare breeds,dog agility classes and polo in the park.
(01285 652007; www.cotswoldshow.co.uk)
Great Yorkshire Show July 12–14
Held in the charming town of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, and showcasing the very best of British farming, the top-class showjumping has some 2,000 entries, plus there’s sheep shearing, the Supreme Champion Dairy Product competition and the Big Auction (www.greatyorkshireshow.co.uk; 01423 541000)
Exford Show August 10
Hosted by the Devon and Somerset Staghounds and Exmoor Pony Society, and held on the edge of the moor, there aren’t many other shows with this old-fashioned feel. Don’t miss the adorable Exmoor ponies, the antler competition, hound parade and Inter Hunt challenge.
(01598 710512; www.exfordshow.co.uk)
Birdfair August 19–21
The ‘birdwatcher’s Glastonbury’ is jointly organised by the Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust and the RSPB and held on beautiful Rutland Water Nature Reserve plus five other nearby locations.(www.birdfair.org.uk)
Dorset County Show September 3–4
Formed in 1840, the year Thomas Hardy was born, the show, held at the Dorchester Showground, is still predominantly run by local farming families. It’s especially known for its homecraft and horticulture tents, but you should not miss the qualifiers for the Horse of the Year show, carriage driving and scurry racing.(www.dorsetcountryshow.co.uk; 01305264249)
The Royal County of Berkshire Show September 17–18
The last of the season’s big shows, held at the 105-acre Newbury Showground, it attracts the very best of the livestock classes with more than 2,000 animals competing. The Berkshire pigs and the fancy fowl are highlights. (www.newburyshowground.co.uk; 01635 247111)