A strong on-line presence and policy which admitted accompanied children free of charge meant this year’s Heathfield Show was simply the best... in terms of visitors numbers, spectacle and quality.
Although entries are still being counted, about 20,000 people passed through the gates on Saturday, a massive increase on the 2014 figure. Last year’s 3,000 on-line ticket sales rose to 15,000 this year. By noon the car parks were full and vehicles were being directed into overflow car parks in the fields around Tottingworth Farm, site of the Show.
Organisers put the success down, in part, to several innovations including a Women in Rural Business marquee, micro brewery festival featuring 14 real beers and ciders plus a new enterprise zone for up and coming country businesses.
But they also ran alongside favourites - and the real purpose of the show - such as the Country Ways section (from bee keeping to wood carving, from stained glass to falconry) and the upscaled showing classes displaying the finest of Sussex livestock.
The Kangaroo Kid and his quad bikes returned from Aussie shores to thrill the audience and include some of them in his daring ‘wheelies.’
Vintage tractors and working steam breathed nostalgia while more than 200 prize animals took to the ring in the cattle parade. One of the prime objectives of this year’s show was to educate children on the importance that farming and the countryside play in food production and the environment and this was served by the showground-wide children’s trail and some DIY milking.Phil Hart gave a sheepshearing demonstration and pigs continued to amuse onlookers by steadfastingly refusing to go where they were told to go. New flower show organisers Phyllis Stephens and Kathleen Cade ensured the floral marquee was sweetly scented while a full day of equine competitions underlined new horse secretary Debbie Lapworth’s skills in mustering classes across all rings. Overall trade stand winner was agricultural and garden machinery business Ernest Doe with Plumpton College once again winning an award as well as fielding competititors in many livestock classes.
Handmade in the Weald organised by Wealden Craftworkers displayed jewellery, artwork and textiles while crowds dug out their notes and coins to buy dairy produce, confectionery, fruit, vegetables, teas and chutneys at the farmers’ market organised by Katie Plumley.
New Wealden and Bexhill and Battle MPs Nus Ghani and Huw Merriman chatted to stallholders, farmers and exhibitors throughout the Show. The show ended with a moving cornet rendition of Sunset by Emily Rich.