Thursday, August 07, 2008
Last week my friend J and I went to our local Agricultural Show at Bakewell. The weather forecast was bad but in actual fact it turned out to be a nice warm,dry and often sunny day. The photo above is a magnificent Hereford bull being judged. I never normally get to see the farm animals because the friend I usually go with isn't interested. She's away this year though so I asked J if she'd like to go with me and as she's a real countrywoman we saw and did all the bits of the Show that I normally miss.
An Ayrshire calf waiting her turn for judging.
We went inside the building where the cattle were kept, it's normally the cattle market so the surroundings are ideal for them, it's cool and dry and so much better than the marquees where they were housed when I first started going to the Show. On hot days it must have been miserable for them inside those canvas marquees.
When I was taking photos many of the farmers invited me to go inside the pens with the animals. In this case I had a close encounter with another of the Hereford bulls, I like cattle so I'm not at all nervous around them.
Isn't she lovely? This is a two week old Dexter calf, they are the smallest British breed of cow standing only 36-42 inches high at the shoulder. They are a really interesting breed and come originally from South West Ireland. They are descended from the predominently black cattle of the early Celts so have a very long history. Dexters are very hardy and are used for both beef and milk.
Here she is in the judging ring with mum. You can see from the height compared to the people in the photo how small the Dexters are.
A Hereford cow with her calf. I like Herefords, they are gentle animals and an old English breed coming originally, as their name suggests, from Herefordshire.
J and I were delighted to discover several ladies spinning on various types of wheel. There is talk of us going over to Edale in the autumn to have some spinning lessons. J is planning to have a couple of sheep and her plan seems to be that she raises and shears them and I get to spin the fleeces!
This is a walking wheel which has come from Maine in the USA. The young lady using it told us that in the old houses you could often see a groove in the beaten earth floors where the woman doing the spinning had spent hours every day walking back and forth using this type of wheel.
The ladies in red were all members of one family - five in all - who keep alive the crafts of spinning and natural dying and associated crafts. This is a picture done in felting, my photo doesn't do it justice but it will show up better if you click on the picture to enlarge it.
I just love the wonderful soft colours that are achieved using natural materials, many are surprisingly bright and vibrant but the colours are never harsh. This is another craft I'd love to try.
Appropriately enough, right next to the spinners was The Sheep Show. The New Zealander who presented this was both amusing and informative. He was an ex-sheep farmer so really knew what he was talking about. We were introduced to various breeds of sheep and first on stage was Nobby the Norfolk Longhorn who was one of several rare breeds that we met. I'm afraid that most of the sheep were decidedly male and attempts at discreet photos were doomed!
I just love Lenny the Lincoln Longwool - who could resist anything as cute as this?
This breed is a very old one and was certainly around in the mid 1700s but sadly is now one of Britain's rarest breeds, there are only 1500 breeding females left.
The last one onstage was Harry the Herdwick who was another really attractive chap. These are the native sheep of the Lake District and incredibly hardy, they graze the fells as high as 3000ft. Their name 'Herdwick' actually means sheep pasture.
Our New Zealand friend then gave a demonstration of sheep shearing on a reasonably willing 'volunteer'. The really sad thing is that the fleeces, once the source of England's great wealth, are now so valueless that they barely cover the cost of shearing. I have a post planned about my visit to Suffolk to see my two grandsons, that part of England is full of the most wonderful churches all built in the Middle Ages by wealthy merchants whose fortunes were all based on sheep and the wool they produced. The finale to the Sheep Show was the sheep dancing to disco music - each had already come on to its own particular theme music, Lenny the Lincoln Longwool came on to Jimi Hendrix for instance :):) When the music started nothing happened for a minute or two then gradually each of the sheep started jigging about in its own individual (very individual in a couple of cases) style. It was absolutely hilarious and J and I had tears running down our faces. No-one was making fun of the sheep at all, it was the pure entertainment value and they got a huge burst of applause at the end.
The next stop was the centre ring where we sat in the Grandstand and watched the carriage driving. I always enjoy seeing this glimpse of the past. This elegant equipage was this year's winner.
This is my favourite event, I've always loved the heavy working horses and it's encouraging to see that each year there are more and more of them at the Show. Ten years ago there would only be 3 or 4 entries but this year there were ten. I don't care who wins, I love them all. It's quite unusual to see the horses harnessed in tandem like the ones above but there were two entries using this style.
A beautiful pair of grey Shire horses.
This shows several of the heavy horse turnouts and also gives an idea of the lovely setting that Bakewell Show has.
Next we wandered up to the area where the vintage cars were, passing this great old machine on the way. I'm not sure whether it's just a baler or whether it is both threshing and baling. If I'd had any sense I'd have asked one of the men working on it! I didn't photograph any of the cars because there wasn't anything really outstanding for once. If I had unlimited money the first thing I'd buy would be one of those wonderful 1930s cars with running boards and picnic hampers strapped on the back.....
....something like this for instance! A gorgeous 1937 Bentley. Not my photo in this case I hasten to add.
However, back to reality and the inside of the Horticultural tent. This is part of the display by the National Vegetable Society. I look forward to seeing what they do every year, these displays are just as artistic and pleasing as any of the exhibits in the flower arranging classes. More so really, I see very few flower arrangements that I actually like, they are all too artificial and arty-farty to appeal to me I'm afraid. I realise that they take great skill and freely admit I couldn't do them myself - but they just aren't my thing.
J and I thought this was great, I'm sure I don't have to tell you that it's a chicken with some eggs. It didn't win a prize in the vegetable animal class but we thought it was the best one.
Finally back to the Grandstand to see the Four Shires bloodhounds. Bloodhounds are so called because of their superb bloodlines which go back hundreds of years. Their quarry is human not animal and they are incredibly friendly dogs.Do follow the link to find out more about these great dogs and the sport of hunting the clean boot.
Above is the huntsman remounting his horse after a huge crowd of children had been in the ring to meet the dogs.
Finale - the huntsman riding at full tilt and blowing his hunting horn. After watching the Pony Club games for a while - such fun and sheer pandemonium! - we decided it was time for home after a really wonderful day out.