AGRICULTURAL shows generally reflect how much things stay the same. So the Meet the Freemasons stand at Otley stood out.
The Craven lodge of the Masons, at Skipton, has been a leader in an effort to lose the old adjectives – like shadowy and secretive – which always went with every mention of the organisation.
Craven Lodge even has a Facebook page. And its organisers were at Otley to help the Royal Wharfedale Lodge follow suit.
Visitors were told the Masons had raised £27,000 for Pakistan earthquake aid and locally were big on teddy bears for children in A&E at Wharfedale General. Leaflets were available to answer all questions about funny handshakes and so on. For more, see www.cravenlodge810.co.uk/
The May scheduling for the first of Yorkshire’s livestock shows means an annual gamble on the weather. On Saturday, the Wharfedale Agricultural Society won, with a day which was dry if occasionally dark.
Farmers and hobby breeders from west coast to east turned up for a first or second trial of their strengths – some had been at the Newark & Notts. the week before. And the usual 15,000 others turned up to watch.
Cattle entries were down a little on last year in numbers but up in variety; sheep were up in both and looking good in all shapes and sizes, thanks to an easy lambing season; horsey entries hit a new high, as they always do everywhere, lately. And so, for some reason of fashion in the bird world, did water fowl.
The Highland Cattle section had grown again and had to go into overspill amongst the rest of the beef –although a slaughterman observed: “I hardly ever see one at my end.”
The public and hobby farmers love the hairy and hardy beasts but they do not get fat quickly enough for most commercial farmers. However, thanks to the growing taste for “traditional”, section winner John Morrison sells a few through his local butcher, Thompsons of Helmsley, run by his wife, Hazel, and her father Brian. Mr Morrison’s main business remains sheep, however.
The Dexter mini-cattle have also been more kept than eaten, on the whole, but the breed champion this year was shown by Graham Hunt, who runs them at Thirsk and at Sicklinghall, near Wetherby and sells them for beef through the Woodhall Hotel at Linton, the Shambles Butchers in York and London restaurants.
Top beef animal was more mainstream – a Limousin bull from the Tomschoice herd run by James and Sarah Cooper near Harrogate. A brother of the bull fetched £10,000 at Carlisle last year and he will be out again for the Great Yorkshire.
Runner-up was a Hereford bull from semi-pro breeder Heather Whittaker of Norwood Green, near Halifax. She purchased it as a calf from the mentor who got her into the business, Jack Henry of Brighouse.
In the sheep lines, rarity of the day was a pen of Castlemilk Moorits, descended from a Scottish mix put together for their unusual brown and white colouring – and picked up as an interesting sideline by Charlotte Hawkins, who mainly helps partner Rob Smith run Texels at Steeton.
DAIRY CATTLE: Supreme champion – Holstein, David Lawson, of Arthington and Guiseley. Reserve – Jersey, David Jones of Mawdesley, near Ormskirk. Best Dairy Shorthorn – Alex Wilkes of Leyburn.
BEEF CATTLE: Supreme champion – Limo bull, James & Sarah Cooper, Dacre. Reserve – Hereford bull, Heather Whittaker, Norwood Green. Best commercial beef – Limo–x, Stephen Priestley of Clayton, Bradford. Best Aberdeen Angus – James and Victoria Rooks of Great Smeaton, Northallerton. Best Highland – John Morrison, Helmsley. Best Any Other Pure Breed – Blonde, Carl Fawcett, Sand Hutton. Best Dexter – Graham Hunt of Thirsk and Sicklinghall.
SHEEP: Supreme champion – Bluefaced Leicester tup hogg, Tom Willoughby, Redmire, Leyburn. Reserve – Charollais ewe, Sam Tindall, Wetherby. Best Suffolk – L Lane, Thirsk. Best Swaledale – Godfrey Haygarth, Skipton. Best Texel – John North, Goole. Best Butchers’ Lambs – Beltex–Xs, AM & HV Brown, Bedale. Best Dalesbred – Kevin Wilson, Blubberhouses. Best Teeswater – Willis Graham, Ripon (also Best Fleece). Best Wensleydale – Yvonne Mudd, Knaresborough. Best Mule – Cecil & Stephen Hutchinson, Kirby Wiske. Best Jacob – Betty Palmer, Clitheroe. Best Any Other Pure Breed – Hampshire Down, Alf & Gill Pink, York. Best Zwartble – Martin & Harry Preston, Bingley. Young handler – Olivia North, nine, Doncaster.
HEAVY HORSES: Champion – Shire gelding, Anthony Gribben, Thornton.
MOUNTED GAMES: Winners – Faye & Emma Holgate, Dewsbury.
POULTRY: Best – Belgian d’Anvers, Adrian Knaggs of Malton.
RABBITS: Best – Silver Fox, Darren Calvert, Bradford.