The South of England Show 2024 in photos: HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh visits beloved annual event

The glorious summer sunshine lasted all weekend for the South of England Show this year.

The 56th annual event in Ardingly offered three days of countryside displays from Friday to Sunday, June 7-9, with tens of thousands of people attending.

Visitors were delighted as the South of England Agricultural Society’s (SEAS) 2024 President, HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh, attended the opening day.

In a welcome message she said: “This show exists to bring people together to learn more about agriculture, to shine a light on our rural industries and showcase the very best that our food producers across the South East have to offer.”

The event is organised by the society and offers attractions including Atkinson Action Horses, international showjumping, heavy horse displays, cookery workshops and livestock competitions.

Deputy chief steward Graham Stafford received the President’s Award for 50 years of service to SEAS and said it was ‘absolutely delightful’ to meet The Duchess of Edinburgh.

Graham, from Albourne, said: “It’s my 48th annual show. We lost two because of Covid and foot-and-mouth (2001 outbreak), otherwise it would have been my 50th.”

He said he did not realise he was going to get the award and was ‘flabbergasted’ when The Duchess of Edinburgh announced his name.

Graham, who is a retired senior officer from the West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, said: “In 1974 we started to put a fire station up at Ardingly specifically for the show.”

He said he has enjoyed the past 50 years of volunteering. “You wonder where the time has gone but you see the changes taking place in farming and in the show,” he said. “The society’s going from strength to strength.”

Graham thought this year’s show was a particularly good one with great crowds, quality entertainment and fascinating animal displays.

Corrie Ince, Show Director for SEAS, said: “We’re delighted that this year’s show was another resounding success. We simply couldn’t put on this event without the support of those who attended, and we extend our sincere thanks to everyone who travelled to the event over the weekend, as well as our incredibly dedicated team of staff and volunteers.

“Our aim at the Society is to inspire people of all ages with a memorable, fun-filled visit that also informs and promotes the countryside and the industries involved – and I think we’ve certainly achieved that once again. Across the weekend, I’ve seen genuine connections between attendees and hardworking farmers, landowners, and skilled craftspeople who have been here representing the South of England at its finest.”

Among the many attractions this year was the Countryside Ring, which showcased falconry, axe skills, ferret displays, and search-and-rescue dog demonstrations. There was a special trail around the showground for children that offered fun and educational activities about food production, as well as the chance to meet local emergency services. The Discover the Countryside area provided fly casting, sheep shearing and wool spinning while the Woodland Craft Area featured demonstrations in trug, stick, hurdle and basket making, hedge laying and chainsaw carving. There were many street food areas too, as well as pop-up bars, cafes, a Grape & Grain Walk with Sussex vineyards and breweries, and a Gin Alley with locally distilled gins. The Bees & Honey Marquee was a success too with informative bee demonstrations.

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