We love a good country show. Farm animals on their best behaviour, sheepdogs out to impress with their skills in rounding up sheep, horses in the ring neatly jumping a clear round, country crafts, tough-guy tractors, food to sample, all in some pretty slice of countryside with the sun (maybe) beating down.
Since we got back to England, we’ve failed to go to the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate – too crowded, and the Ripley Show – way too wet. Would it be third time lucky at the Wensleydale Agricultural Show? Well, yes, we did make it there. And just after we arrived (this was the 23rd August, remember) we found ourselves scurrying for cover to avoid a heavy hail storm, with sharp icy crystals slashing at our faces and battering at the marquees.
It didn’t matter. The sun soon came out again, but in any case, we spent much of the day inside. We were there to work. Bedale Community Bakery, where we continue to enjoy volunteering every Wednesday, had a stall, and there was bread to sell. Some of the team had worked through the night to get loaf after loaf mixed, kneaded, proved, baked and loaded up for the journey from Bedale to Leyburn and the show. By the time Malcolm and I arrived, some of the team had been there several hours already. And here’s what the stall looked like….
We sliced and buttered loaves to provide samples for an eager public who wanted to talk to us and to try before they bought: sourdough; spicy chilli sourdough (soooooo good); cheese and onion bread; another cheesy loaf marbled with Marmite; harvester loaves; wholemeal loaves; bloomers; rosemary and pepper loaves; ‘seedtastic’ spelt; a loaf made using a locally brewed beer; a Mediterranean bread, all made the traditional way, proved long and slowly over several hours. There were spicy vegetable pasties; tomato and onion focaccia; roasted vegetable focaccia; four different types of scone (Jamie and I had made quite a lot of those on Friday, and they were baked off in the small hours of Saturday morning).
It all paid off. We were in the food marquee, surrounded by other small food businesses offering bread, pies, jams and curds, cakes and biscuits, chocolate, cured meats: all good stuff. But we got first prize in the ‘Food from Farming’ category, for the quality of our products and (buzz word alert) our community engagement.
There was almost no time to get away and enjoy the show, but it hardly mattered. Serving on the stall to an appreciative public was all good fun. But here are a few shots from the times I did escape. Here are shire horses, beautifully decorated in the manner traditional for the area. Yorkshire horses, apparently, sport flowers, whereas Lancashire ones wear woollen decorations (very odd, as we had a woollen industry in Yorkshire, whilst Lancashire did cotton).
Here are sheep.
And here are children working sheep. There seemed to be opportunities in every category for smartly-overalled and seriously skilled children to show off their prowess as animal managers: it’s clearly important to encourage the next generation of farmers.
There are quite a few more shows left before the summer’s over. We’ll get one into the diary.