Agricultural shows were always on our family calendar when I was growing up, from the smaller ones like Lowick or Ulverston & North Lonsdale Show, to the huge ones like Lowther Show, we always attended when we could.
I loved everything about them; the atmosphere, seeing all the different animals in the ring and, especially, the horse and pony jumping competitions. (I didn’t ever dare to enter a show myself but watching every horse and their rider gliding over the fences made me wish I was riding there and then). Stalls everywhere, adorned with so many interesting items to browse and buy, food trucks and ice cream vans, the announcements over the tannoy and the beating of hooves in every direction. From farmers to fox hunters, gun dogs to grand champions, and rosettes to ribbons, agricultural shows have it all. For me, absolute heaven.
North Lonsdale Show (as we knew it) was the one we went t every year without fail, as it was our most local, and the one where we were guaranteed to bump into plenty of people that we knew. I remember one show in particular, I think it was Lowick, where they had a gun dog competition at the edge of the field. We had brought our border collie, Fly, with us and my mum asked the judge whether he could possibly have a go once the competition was finished. He loved to fetch, and he had the best nose I’ve ever seen on a dog (and I’ve owned a beagle and now a beagle cross cocker and he would’ve knocked them into a cocked hat). The judge agreed to let our Fly boy have a go and, would you believe it, if he had been in the competition with the ‘professionals’ he would’ve won! Not bad for a dog who’d never tried it before.
I hadn’t been to an agricultural show for a good few years before May of 2022, when I decided that it was time introduce the kids to the joys of my favourite kind of day out. I thought I may have been pushing my luck with the timing - Murphy, the puppy, was only 13 weeks old and had only been out for a walk a handful of times; and Arthur, the baby, hadn’t been out for longer than a couple of hours without losing it and screaming the place down. I was determined though, so I called Mum to invite her along; (Jonny was at work and there was no way I was daft enough to try this alone) and we packed ourselves, the dog, the pram and, what felt like everything but the kitchen sink, into my little VW Polo and set off to for the agricultural show, CountryFest.
It's amazing how much stuff you need to take with you on a day out with two kids and a dog. We managed it quite well, though the pram was completely laden with bags, bottles, nappies, toys and treats for the puppy to keep him occupied if we were sitting for a while. Murphy was surprisingly well behaved; I was really impressed with him. There were a million and one things to see and hear and smell, not to mention hundreds of dogs to meet, but he was impeccably behaved. Nothing phased him and he took it all in his stride, even when we sat by the main ring for over an hour watching the wonderful Jonathan Marshall and his show ‘Free Spirit.’ (I absolutely recommend this show if anyone gets chance to see it – Jonathan and his incredible Friesian, ‘Amadeus,’– the stallion from the Lloyds bank advert no less - along with his beautiful falcons are so impressive, it’s impossible not to be moved by their stunning performance along with his commentary).
Arthur wasn’t quite as well behaved as the puppy, (he didn’t cope so well with sitting still for over an hour, and I couldn’t very well give him a dog chew to occupy him) but he wasn’t nearly as unsettled as I had expected, so I was pleasantly surprised with him too. We watched Jonathan Marshall’s show, then grabbed some food from one of the vendors and took it back to the main arena to watch the Fell Pony Society do a display, which we found really interesting. After that, we had a nosey around the showground, popping into a few stalls, (I bought a pair of boots which I’d had my eye on for weeks), but by that point, it was almost time to go home. We bought a quick ice cream for Eleanor, which turned out to be a mistake on the way home, and we headed back to the car with full tummies and even fuller hearts.
Countryfest may have been the first agricultural show I have been to for a while, but it is now one of my favourites. We spent four hours there and still didn’t manage to get to venture into every stall so, next year, we will be sure to set off much earlier so we can enjoy everything the show has to offer! I have definitely been bitten by the show bug once more and have already pencilled this year’s Ulverston and North Lonsdale show in my diary. You know what they say – you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.
CountryFest – Westmorland County Agricultural Society