|Britain’s Berry Best!|
Slaley country show is making something of a comeback. Last year the sun shone and things got busy. The hog roast van ran out of hog at about 2pm and the beer tent was forced to put up a ‘we have run out of beer’ sign, as visitors flooded in for the summer fun. They weren’t going to be caught out like that again. The show made a profit last year and Sheep secretary Hazel Clarke said ‘we are looking forward to a busy time with exhibitors battling for honours in classes including Bluefaced Leicester, Texel, Mule and other Continentals.’ Cancelled in 2011 due to excessive rain, Slaley show has pretty much run continuously every year only pausing for world wars and foot and mouth outbreaks. The Show began in the village in Northumberland in 1845. It started with classes for flowers and horticulture and now includes sheep, alpacas, chickens, horses, ferrets, terriers, baking, handicrafts, sausages, wood turning and all manner of other country produce and mad activities.
My favourite thing to watch is the terrier racing. It makes you laugh so much that your sides hurt as a hotch potch of small dogs – they need to be terrier related – almost explode with excitement as they burst from the little wooden traps in pursuit of the fake fox’s brush. Terriers are tough little dogs originally kept by farmers to keep down vermin, they are tenacious, loyal and their motto is ‘if it moves – chase it!’
Terrier Racing is generally reckoned to have started about a hundred years ago when the little dogs became fixtures on farms for keeping rats down. Before refined rat poisons were around, the poisons that were available were extremely dangerous to have around the place. Traps could of course be used, but the rat is an extremely intelligent creature and soon learned to avoid them. Enter the Terrier, a small compact killing machine. Last year’s champion Bertie was there with his owner and he easily won his race. He is a rough haired terrier who made less noise than some of the others – but focused on that tail and went for it. His son was also racing and starting to show some of his father’s promise. A few of the other pet terriers were less effective in the field, got a bit confused and bounced about getting over excited escaping from their handlers and getting a bit manic, which was even funnier.
The Punch and Judy tent was there with obviously still something to offer in these modern times, as Judy whacked Punch more often than the other way round and her hair extensions went flying at one point. There did seem to more adults watching than children though.
|Who will cast the first blow?|
There were lots of the usual horse riding and show jumping activities and the girls from Galloping Acrobatics gave an impressively agile equine display The children’s mounted fancy dress competition was also of note, although there were rather too many princesses I felt, showing a lack of originality. The winner was a boy on his pony dressed as a burger and everyone got a rosette although it’s still tough to take when you don’t win..
|It was a fix!|
The exhibition tents always have something of interest to peruse. A patriotic theme for the children’s vegetable competition produced a British Cyclops and many other fine legumes were on proud display.
|Patriotic Potato Cyclops|
There were beautifully carved walking sticks and even a sileage competition (pickled grass to feed cattle in winter if you don’t know). There were only two entries for that though. One was in a Tesco bag.
I also very much enjoyed the ferret racing and showing. Keeping ferrets and polecats is big among country folk. They do make charming pets as they are cute intelligent and affectionate.
On the down side, they can smell a bit. I had a close encounter with a polecat who was the cutest thing ever, called Tia. Ferrets and Polecats are from ‘the same weasel’ apparently. The English Country Show is a unique traditional experience and every one is just a little bit different. Slaley is definitely one of my favourites, – now where can I get a terrier from before next year…