Although formats have been changed and dates moved, some of Britain's most loved agricultural shows should open their doors to farmers and visitors this summer.
Coronavirus continues to play havoc with the summer agricultural-show circuit, but a handful of much-loved occasions are pressing on or have reinvented themselves, which will be a relief to livestock farmers eager to meet up and showcase their animals.
It’s a very special year — the 125th — for the Devon County Show, which has moved from its usual May date to July 2–4. The organisers are seeking descendants of exhibitors or officials who attended the first iteration in 1873 (check the names at www.devoncountyshow.co.uk); they will receive free tickets and be invited to a photoshoot.
The Bath & West has abandoned its usual May extravaganza, but will run a one-off Equine Showing Show behind closed doors on May 21–22 and a Bath & West Country Festival on August 27–29. There will be no livestock classes, but sections focusing on bees, heavy horses, cider, family farms, poultry and conservation.
The Royal Cornwall has prudently moved from June to September 9–11, the Kent County Show runs on July 9–11 and the Great York- shire on July 13–15. The South of England Show (June 11–13) has ‘with a heavy heart’ cancelled livestock showing, and the Three Counties at Malvern is off, but will run an Equine Show on June 19–20.
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The Royal Welsh and Royal Norfolk shows are off, as is Dunster in Somerset and the Royal Highland, where organisers ‘moved heaven and earth to facilitate a 2021 show, but Scottish government concerns over new Covid-19 strains have placed too many obstacles in our way’.
The Royal County of Berkshire Show at Newbury, which started in 1909, will not run either, due to the financial risk. The organisers admit that ‘the society’s finances were not in good shape before the pandemic’, due to a large bank loan, lack of growth in showground lettings and proceeding with work on a new cattle building, and that any future shows will be on a much smaller scale.
Covid-19 restrictions have obliterated the start of Britain’s international equestrian season, with the cancellation of Badminton, Chatsworth and Bramham horse trials, but the Royal Windsor Horse Show, run in ‘The Queen’s back garden’, has been saved with the later date of July 1–4.