Regular Country Week columnist Chris Berry looks ahead to a packed show schedule for the week, focusing on Kilnsey Show – one of the region’s favourites.
Bank Holiday Monday sees both Reeth and Farndale take their annual bows in Swaledale and the North York Moors.
After celebrating their centenary in 2012 the Reeth & District Agricultural Society have moved from their traditional show day of the Wednesday following the bank holiday to Monday, so don’t get caught out.
Reeth Show is the larger brother of Muker Show that takes place the following week and has always attracted a healthy local attendance when on its traditional day. Presumably, the hope is that in moving to the bank holiday they will be more able to cash in on tourist numbers.
The one word of caution would be that the last show to shift from a weekday to a weekend date did not last too long. Wetherby Show has long since been consigned to the record books.
For those who have never attended Reeth Show, it is a homely affair that does what it says on its tin.
It is a traditional Dales show. More to the point is that it’s actually a traditional Swaledale show as there are no cattle classes.
The sheep classes are hotly contested as you might expect with breed classes such as Swaledale, Blue Faced Leicester, Teeswater, Masham, Texel, Jacob, Mule and Dalesbred. This is not a land of Charollais or Suffolk.
This is also the time of year when fell races come to the fore at rural shows. Reeth has its very own prestigious race in the fell running calendar – the Great Fremington Edge Fell Race, one of the mainstays of the British Open Fell Runners’ Association.
You won’t find anything like that at Farndale Show, which is just five years ahead of Reeth in its history, this being its 106th.
The talk around the livestock and trade stands here is more than likely to include the name Barratt bearing in mind the current story of tenants being evicted within two months.
My advice would be to get over to the sheep classes where Farndale’s best known sheep showman Andy Fawbert will be looking to continue his good form with his Swaledales.
Farndale Show is held at Church Houses, one of the dale’s two hamlets. It is home to just three residential properties as well as the only pub in the dale the Feversham Arms. The field is also home to High Farndale CC who play in the Feversham League, Yorkshire’s smallest cricket league with just five teams.
It’s a small show and the one occasion when the whole dale gathers together during the year. One man who sadly won’t be present this year is Dennis Featherstone, who was Farndale Show chairman and farmed at Keysbeck Farm, Low Mill who passed away last year.
By far the largest show of all in Yorkshire at this time of year is Kilnsey Show just up the road from Grassington and heading towards Kettlewell. There is no other show like it in the county. It offers much greater variety than the rest and where others begin to fade around 4pm it gathers pace and takes on its second wind.
Show chairman Robert Lambert who farms at nearby Conistone will hopefully not quite have the same doubts in his mind about the show going ahead as he had at this time last year in the face of torrential rain beforehand.
“It was so wet last year for such a long period of time before the show, but we got through and were blessed with a half decent day. Let’s hope this year the sun will shine on us a little more. The one thing it thankfully never seems to do though is deter folk from coming.”
Livestock classes here at Kilnsey are not just hotly contested there is real tension as well as plenty of goodwill in the sheep classes. Diane Stenton and husband John are regular competitors in the Blue Faced Leicester classes and make the journey from Thornton le Dale, their feeling mirrors that of many others.
“There are those who see Kilnsey Show as more difficult to win at than the Great Yorkshire Show. There is a great deal of prestige attached to winning here.”
Last year their competition included rising star from ITV’s The Dales, William Wildman and another well-known local entrant specialising in native breeds of both sheep and cattle Neil Heseltine.
Whilst the sheep and cattle provide the early show entertainment, along with the sheepdog trials, this is another major equestrian event with many classes running throughout the morning and early afternoon.
By mid-afternoon Kilnsey Show transforms itself into another show completely when the likes of Roger Ingham, an athletics commentator who should have been picked up by the BBC years ago, take over and the fun really begins with the crag races.
Kilnsey Crag is the iconic feature of the show and children of tender years, as well as adults of many years, set off on what is surely one of the most gruelling courses in the UK. Just walking up Kilnsey Crag is enough to get your heartbeat racing let alone running. Going up the crag is one thing, coming down is a whole other prospect and they really do hurtle!
And just when you think the show may be nearing its end after the fell races there’s still no respite. This is the cue for the horses and sulkies to enter the main ring with their drivers and suddenly you are at the races, harness racing style.
The bookies are here, gambling is under way and a grasstrack race meeting provides all who attend Kilnsey Show with real excitement at the end of the day.
It does make you wonder why other shows don’t do the same.
What’s on this week
After Kilnsey Show all you intrepid showgoers who regularly read these eulogies to our amazing county show schedule can take a well earned breather, at least for a few days. Here’s what’s in store this week:
Monday August 26
Tuesday August 27
Saturday August 31