When torrential rain caused Ryedale Show to be cancelled in 2007 the committee set about ensuring that it would never happen again. Thousands was spent on installing a new drainage system and work was finally completed on it 18 months ago.
With two weeks to go before this year’s show, to be held at Welburn Park, Kirkbymoorside, the organisers were trying their best to put on a brave face as the rains came once again.
The forecast looked pretty grim, but better weather this week has lessened any anxiety that may have been building up.
It is a fiery baptism, if that’s not too much of a misnomer, for Tom Watson as he takes over the reins at the show long held firmly by his colleague Peter Woodall. He’s doing his best to stay calm whilst you can understand that his fingers may be sore having been well and truly crossed ever since the news of the Great Yorkshire Show’s cancellation.
“We are hoping that all of the work and investment that has gone in to making the show free from being waterlogged and having to be cancelled will pay off.
“We managed to cut the grass a couple of weeks ago and the land had drained well.”
The show is rightly proud of its standing in the agricultural show calendar and last year it scooped a crown that they are keen to emulate. Tom believes their no-nonsense, good old-fashioned show without any frills, is what did it with those who voted.
“Ryedale Show is one of the most popular one-day shows in the country and last year it was voted the best one day show in Yorkshire by readers of the Farmers Guardian.
“My own feeling is that the reason why it came out top was because of our ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it’ approach.
“I think too many agricultural shows have moved away from their farming roots. In my view that has taken away what is strong about them and in some cases other shows have lost support by doing it.
“People who visit the show from non-agricultural backgrounds come because they want to see the sheep, cattle, horses and all the other livestock and animal classes. They enjoy being part of the rural life for a day.
“We have kept Ryedale the same way it has always been for those very reasons. We don’t have expensive main ring attractions that have little to do with the countryside, such as monster trucks and stunt riders. I’m sure if you asked 95 per cent of those who attend any agricultural show why they come they would tell you it is for the livestock or the horses.
“Having non-agriculture main ring attractions can sometimes make it hard to differentiate an agricultural show from any other event.”
While Tom has a long way to go before he reaches Peter Woodall’s phenomenal long service to the show, run by the Ryedale & Pickering Lyth Agricultural Society, he has been coming to it for many years.
“I was brought up in Ryedale and I’m from a farming background. My earliest recollection of the show might seem a bit odd but it is of hearing the Bruce Springsteen song ‘Born in the USA’ blaring out from the loudspeakers while I was watching the horses.
“I would probably have only been around seven years of age.
“Peter has done an incredible job over many years.
“He is still a part of it now and without him I am sure it wouldn’t be the show it is today. We might not have changed much in recent years but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a great deal of work being undertaken behind the scenes.’
“The most important thing with all shows is the hard graft that goes in to making them possible. Peter had a great team behind him and that’s still the same now. We have a fantastic committee and we’re also fortunate in having a younger generation now coming through with their own ideas.”
First point of contact for Ryedale Show is often Pat Harrison, who works with Tom at Cundalls who operate as auctioneers; and a land and estate agency business.
“Pat knows far more about the show and who is coming than I will ever know. She handles the livestock entries, trade stands and basically any enquiry about the show. Managing Ryedale Show takes up a vast amount of time but we understand the benefit it can also bring to our business. We are supporting the rural community and because we are close to those farmers who have quality stock we often encourage them to compete.”
There are many in the Ryedale area who see this as their main show of the season and who would rather win at Kirkbymoorside than travel further afield to bigger shows. It also attracts its fair share of showmen and women from all over Yorkshire who will enter at a number of shows through the season.
“That’s a measure of both the quality and quantity of stock we have here.
“There are classes for a range of pedigree breeds in both cattle and sheep.
“This year we will have classes for the Longhorns for the first time. We have 14 entries and that has now taken them out of the Rare Breeds section. We also have an increased number of Herefords. It seems as though the older native breeds are undergoing a revival.”
Peter Turnbull of Coxwold; Willie and Michael Seels of Burghwallis; and Ken Jackson and Kate McNeil of Walden Stubbs are just a few of the regulars in the cattle classes.
The sheep lines include one of the biggest variety of breed classes anywhere in the north of England. Well-known Yorkshire breeders are Margaret Watkinson of Sessay; Charles Marwood of Foulrice; Andy Fawbert of Farndale; and Tim Dunn of Bransdale.
The equestrian activity at Ryedale is also amongst one of the largest in the county and growing too. Heavy horses also play their part, as do pigs and even llamas. Ryedale Showground is unique in that it is split in two with the trade stands on one level and the livestock and horses on a lower level. There is a slope that connects the two where cars park so that those fortunate enough to have parked there can view the competitions from their vehicle.
The slope gives the show its distinct look that many have enjoyed for decades, although it hasn’t always been held at Welburn Park. The old showground was once situated to the east of Pickering where the award winning Cedar Barn Farm shop trades today.
Ryedale Show will take place at Welburn Park, near Kirkbymoorside on Tuesday July 31.