Summer in the countryside is show time. Here in Yorkshire, Harrogate kicks it off in July with The Great Yorkshire Show. Then week after week until the end of September, villages, towns and whole Dales follow on with theirs.
This is when farmers, breeders, stock men, makers of agricultural machinery and equipment and The Great British Public all get together to celebrate all things rural, and in the case of farmers, normally so isolated in their day-to-day working lives, simply to meet and have a chin-wag.
Emily wanted to take City Boy Miquel to a proper country fair. So the Wensleydale Show in Leyburn it was. He saw more sheep and cattle in a single day than he’s probably seen in a lifetime.
We began with the sheep dog trials. One expert dog, guided by the whistles and calls of its master, has to encourage a small group of sheep down the hill, through a gate, up the hill again and through another gate, round and back again to finish up closeted in a small wooden pen. Those dogs and their shepherds were pretty good. But from the sheep’s point of view, why go through a gate which has no fence on either side of it? Why not just go round? And certainly, why go into a small pen when there’s all that hillside to enjoy? Fun was had by all but the frustrated shepherds, none of whom completed the course with a full scorecard. But that didn’t stop them being pretty damn’ good.
Off to inspect the sheep themselves. Some had dense clouds of thick warm wool, others rangy dreadlocks. Some had squat round faces, others magisterial aquiline profiles. Miquel was astonished to find that sheep weren’t simply, well, sheep.
Poultry. Large hens and ducks, small hens and ducks, sleek hens and ducks, messily-feathered hens and ducks, long scaly legs, short feather-trousered legs. White eggs, brown eggs, blue eggs, speckled eggs …..
Cattle with beautiful hides, and bulls looking unusually complacent in this showground setting.
Best of all, a heavy working horse, a Suffolk Punch, just the one, a reminder of what crop farming and ploughing used to involve. This splendid beast was traditionally tricked up in her party clothes, reminding me of Whit Mondays when I was a child, when the shire horses employed for delivering beer and ale to pubs were dressed in all their finery for this one special day of the year.
And in among, we watched displays in the show ring, sampled local cheeses and pies, bought decadent and wholly nontraditional treats like gooey chocolate brownies, and generally enjoyed All the Fun of the Fair.
Today’s Ragtag Prompt is ‘Fair’. Yesterday’s was ‘Coddiwomple’ – to travel purposefully towards a vague destination. Well, we – Miquel especially – were a bit vague about how we’d spend the day…… until we got there.
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