Northumberland County Show - a great day out!
Over 24,000 descended on Bywell, near Stocksfield in Northumberland on the 25th May 2015, for what has been heralded “the best show in years!” With no reported traffic problems or queues for visitors the organisers road plans worked exceptionally well. Despite a cool and cloudy morning, the sun shone brightly on the happy crowds throughout the afternoon.
Agriculture is at the heart of this historic Show and it is an important day for farmers from far and wide to show their finest animals and be recognised for their achievements. The highest accolade of the day goes to the Champion of Champions, which this year was awarded to a Texel gimmer, whose owners Gordon Gray and family, had travelled all the way from Sunnycroft, Selkirk. Gordon was delighted, “It’s an honour to win this trophy, especially when you see the quality of animals on show here today. One of the most pleasing things is that there was the most outstanding line of Texels I have ever seen, and to be picked as champion of that class alone was amazing.”
The Gray family, who are regulars at the Northumberland County Show, bred the animal from a multi-prize winning mother. In the class for Interbreed Group of Three she competed with one of her embryo sisters. She has three other sisters from the same Dam, Mitchell Hill Paparazzi, and Sire, Sportsman’s Unimog. Her half maternal sister was sold last year and topped the Scottish Premier Sale at Lanark, achieving £7,000. Gordon may sell one of the embryo sisters this autumn, so it will be worth looking out for her as she’s sure to attract a great deal of attention.
Brian Rogerson, Judge of the Champion of Champions, explained what had appealed to him about the sheep, “She stood very well, had a nice head, and I’ve never seen a sheep with as much character in all my life.” Sponsor of the competition, Geoff Hubbuck of Hubbucks Agricultural Merchants in Hexham, concurred. “It’s a superb animal, and a worthy winner!” Geoff exclaimed during the award ceremony. Gordon concluded, “This is an excellent show, well organised, and a great credit to everyone.”
The Reserve Champion of Champion had also travelled from outside the region to attend. Beth and Luke Wilkinson, with father James, from Ivy Farm Cottages in Leyburn also went home with the Commercial Beef Trophy for their home bred British Blue cross, Millie. They also scooped the Reserve Commercial Beef Champion rosette with another beast from their twenty-strong herd, Vin Diesel. James told us, “This is the first time we’ve competed here at the Northumberland Show, and we’re very impressed. The competition is remarkable, and it’s a great big show. Millie won three championships last year as a calf, but they were smaller local shows. Then she won second in class at the English Winter Fair’s Commercial Beef Calf Class. Next stop for us is the Great Yorkshire!”
It had been a successful day for another family, the Hoggarths from Cumbria. Their first visit to the show, they showed eight Coloured Ryedales from their small flock of twenty. They were thrilled to earn a rosette in every class in the new Pedigree Native Sheep section, sponsored by Youngs RPS, and win the Championship, but the youngest of the family Sam Hoggarth (6) from Penrith had the widest smile. He was crowned Champion Under-11 Young Sheep Handler with his skillful control of Lizzy, a white-woolled Ryedale lamb. He told us, “My Grandad has been teaching me how to handle a sheep in the ring. I really love them, they’re so friendly.”
Elder brother Alex came third in the class; as he celebrated his eleventh birthday the day after the show, he only narrowly qualified to compete against his brother. Joanne Fisher, their aunt, who farms with her father Malcolm Fisher at Greenlea in Southwaite, explained the interest in this rare breed only started two years ago, “We bought four Coloured Ryedales in the autumn of 2013. It’s an unusual breed that originates in Herefordshire. The herd has grown to twenty, and the two boys are really involved in their day to day care.”
This enthusiasm was one of the criteria the judge, Peter Turnbull of Whitby, was looking for. He told us “I look for how the child is able to lead the sheep around, and how well they hold it. I also think genuine interest is an important factor.” Adam Barrass of Vickers & Barrass Chartered Surveyors, the sponsors of the Young Handlers Classes since 2009, told us “It’s important to us that we support the up and coming generation of the farming fraternity and our association with Darlington Mart means we are always involved in the agricultural community.”
More trophies went west to Cumbria in the hands of Mr Ronald Drummond, owner of the Best Dog in Show. His perky Basenji (an African Hound) reclaimed her title first won in 2010. Ruby, who carries the grand show name of Kissangawi Dreammaker at Djoser, started her career at the Northumberland County Show, winning Best Puppy five years ago, before going on to win three further prizes in subsequent years. Owner, Ronald, described her as “An elegant, honest dog. She doesn’t bark – Basenjis chortle or yodel – and she’s intelligent and independently minded. Once she sets after a rabbit, nothing will make her come back, so you have to keep them under close control. But today she’s been behaved beautifully!”
The Best Puppy in Show went to Jim and Jackie Bowey from Stakeford in Ashington for their American Cocker, Bowdanja’s Reaping Rewards, or Kai, as he’s known in the family. At only ten month’s old he’s attended lots of shows and already qualified for Crufts. Jackie, a nurse, said “I came off night shift at 6.30 this morning and was exhausted so we nearly didn’t come, but I thought the dogs deserved a day out and they’re worth it. I’m so pleased we made the effort! We’ve bred these dogs for twelve years, after my husband saw one at Crufts. Now we have eight. They’re called The Merry Cocker because they have such adorable temperaments and they make lovely, loyal family pets.”
This year, although organisers await final figures, they believe visitor numbers are up. The consensus from exhibitors, traders and visitors has been unanimously positive, with huge praise being heaped upon the army of volunteers who assist in every area of the show.
Northumberland County Show has always been a popular north east event, attracting visitors from far and wide to see the diverse range of livestock classes and competitive events, including traditional Cumberland Wrestling, tug of war and strong man competitions, and indulge in shopping, local food and drink, and simply have a great day out. Next year’s show date is 30th May 2016, and plans for an even bigger and better day have already started.