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Alresford show, Alresford, agricultural society, winchester, tichborne park
WHILE many country shows are becoming increasingly commercialised, bearing only a passing resemblance to what they once were, there is a notable exception, writes Wesley Rock.
The Alresford and District Agricultural Society, now more than 100 years old, held its annual show last Saturday. And what a show it was. Gloriously old school in many respects, by sticking to its roots the Alresford Show has managed to stay traditional yet relevant — a fact confirmed by the hordes of people, from all generations, who flocked to Tichborne Park at the weekend in a celebration of country life. Martin Waldron, a fitter and turner from Hursley , has attended several times over the years. “I’ve always been in the countryside and it’s always been important to me,” he said.
“The thing I like about this one is that it’s large enough that there’s plenty to see, but small enough that you don’t get exhausted looking around it.”
Elaine Jee, whose Highland Cattle, Iona, took first prize in the Heifer in Calf class, said: “It’s our third year showing now and it’s just so friendly here — everyone is in it together. Some other competitions aren’t like that, and the public here are always very interested in the animals.”
The main ring featured stalwarts such as the parade of prize-winning livestock, vintage farm machinery and, as ever, an impressive showing of horses. With 70 craft exhibitors and more than 150 trade stands, there was, literally, something for everyone.
Situated behind the members’ enclosure, children delighted in climbing aboard some of the behemoth modern tractors on display, with many of their fathers appearing equally enchanted.
Alongside the millions of pounds of modern farm machinery, Andrew Birnie’s demonstration of traditional hedge-laying made for an intriguing juxtaposition. Mr Birnie, the owner of Copsework, which tends hedges throughout the South Downs National Park, said: “These methods go back to the Bronze Age. It’s also totally sustainable and there is no machine that can do it.”
If events like this are for all the family, then the family dog is no exception. And so it was that the Champion Dog Show gave non-farmers a chance to parade their own prized animals. Organiser Nina Byles said: “We just love this show because it’s a lot of fun and you can see that the kids really enjoy it.”
Indeed, so much fun that some people are willing to bend the rules just to be part of it. Nina added: “I had to be discreet about it, and it happens at every show, but I had to ask a gentleman just now to come out of the ring as he had a Labradoodle and these are pedigrees!”
The weather was outstanding on Saturday, displaying the surrounding Hampshire countryside in its fullest splendour. Show secretary Lily Collier-Knight estimated that attendance was roughly the same as last year — at around 22,000. She said: “It was a very, very successful day but it cannot possibly run without the enormous input we have from the volunteers, who bring all kinds of expertise and help to the show.”