The South of England Show opened to glorious sunshine on Thursday morning.
First guest of honour of the day was Owen Paterson MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural affairs who visited the NFU’s Meet the Farmer stand.
Just before 10am, Tim Hough from Waldron supervised the presentation of the Ian Askew Award at the Hound Show. The late Ian Askew, a former Master of the Southdown and Eridge Hunt and close friend of Major Bruce Shand (father of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall) presented new hound kennels to the Showground and a plaque commemorating his donation was unveiled at this year’s Show.
Horticulture was a strong feature of the Show and Let’s Get Growing was the theme of the Wildlife, Farming and Forestry area.
Following showing classes and presentations, world-famous Australian quad bike stuntman Matt Coulter, aka the Kangaroo Kid whose Quad Bike display drew cheers in the main arena was matched only by shouts of encouragement for the Heavy Horse turnouts and high-stepping hackney ponies in the Ardingly Ring.
Owen Paterson visited the Regional Food and Wine marquee and at 2pm HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal arrived at the show to make presentations to the Herons Ghyll and Kipling Riding for the Disabled groups after their display. Her Royal Highness’s next task was to present Long Service Awards and this year’s Award of Honour to 86 year old John Blake for his contribution to promoting the traditional craft of hedgelaying. (John organises the hedgelaying competition for the Hurstpierpoint Ploughing Match.) The Princess then enjoyed the cascades of colour in the Flower Marquee’s Windows of Horticulture. This featured a timely tribute to the hardships faced during World War II where children from Grove Park School, Crowborough had created a decorated air raid shelter.
At the Bluebell Railway display, commercial director Tim Baker described the railway’s next push through the Sussex Countryside to Haywards Heath railway station where a new platform will be created for the steam trains. The only barrier – a demolished viaduct at Horsted Keynes where the new design alone for a rebuild is estimated to cost about £40,000.
Uckfield Community Technology College presented a brilliantly innovative display called a Vertical Bottle Garden. Plastic bottles were stacked end to end, half filled with compost and hung from recycled timber frames to ensure people could grow vegetables and herbs in a few square metres.
The usual exhibitors were in the cattle arenas including Bungehurst Farm, Mayfield (Simmentals,) Black Ven Farm, Fletching (Sussex,) and Lane End Farm, Sheffield Park, (Ayrshires.)
Firle Primary School children turned up en masse to enjoy the Young Farmers’ exhibit.
Other highlights of the show included the micro-sized Shetland Pony Grand National, Fur and Feather displays, livestock displays, fly fishing, the outdoor food court, craft marquees and of course, dozens of trade stands selling everything from patented vegetable choppers to a full-scale tractor.
Plumpton College exhibited in several areas including horticulture, floristry, winemaking, the cattle and sheep classes, Young Craftsmen, sheep shearing and the education section covering all aspects of the College’s wide range of land-based courses.
For the ecologically minded, there were demonstrations of woodland conservation from local school children, forestry displays, the latest trends in crop production and a focus on seasonal fruit and vegetables and the best ways to grow and cook them.
Seventeen year old Thomas Streeter from The Weald College in East Sussex won this year’s Young Craftsman of the Year with his beechwood open twist hollow form. Entries came from most Sussex schools as well as schools across Berkshire, West Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Kent and Surrey.