Show season comes to a glorious end at Nidderdale

It requires unseen hard work that never really stops and has taken countless man-hours from hoards of volunteers to deliver, but the agricultural show season is all but over for another year.

Nidderdale Show's Hunter class in the main ring. Pictures: James Hardisty

More than 40 countryside shows take place across Yorkshire throughout the spring and summer months, from the season opener at Otley, to ‘the big one’ - the Great Yorkshire Show in July and the East Riding’s almighty celebration in Driffield a week later.

And while there is Masham Sheep Fair this weekend and Countryside Live to look forward to next month at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate, the traditional local show season ended in Pateley Bridge on Monday - where Nidderdale Show was held at Bewerley Park.

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Like much of the season this year, the proceedings enjoyed fine weather and the effect on visitor numbers through the gates was noticeable.

Andrew Fisher, with his winning Wensleydale Sheep.

Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life and from all over the country - and even holidaymakers from abroad - have ultimately been educated about rural life and farming at these annual events that have stood the test of time - and it was the same story at Nidderdale.

Any insight into agriculture like this includes a glimpse of the competitive world in which farmers operate. In the livestock show rings, reputations can be enhanced and pride is certainly at stake.

North Yorkshire is prime sheep country, making shows like Nidderdale ultra competitive in the sheep sections.

Entry numbers were up in the Swaledale and Rare Breeds sections as David Verity bowed out as chief sheep steward, and it was an extra special day too for one local breeder.

Andrew Fisher, with his winning Wensleydale Sheep.

Andrew Fisher of Low Laithe enjoyed a fine run of success, winning classes with three of the four breeds he displayed, a feat that was capped off by victory in the supreme championship with a second shear, homebred Wensleydale ram.

It came out top ahead of a Blue Faced Leicester shearling shown by Sue Sayer of Snilesworth which had won the interbreed championship at Stokesley Show last weekend.

Mr Fisher farms 350 commercial ewes, 100 head of cattle, 10 Wensleydale ewes, 10 Teeswater ewes and a starter flock of Kerry Hills, and said he had enjoyed his best ever season this year for showing sheep.

“This is my first ever interbreed title here,” Mr Fisher said. “It’s more special to win on home ground where everyone is watching you. It’s one of those things that only happens once in a lifetime, especially here because the standard is getting better and better.”

His interbreed winner was also a champion at Kilnsey Show, Ripley and Otley, and came second in its class at the Great Yorkshire.

Mr Fisher is at Masham Sheep Fair this weekend.

When times in the industry are tough, shows can offer welcome distractions and they are an excuse to spend a day away from the farm to catch up with friends and perhaps get a wider appreciation of how many other farmers are in the same situation.

Challenges in the dairy sector because of over production and low prices are well documented and the situation has been enough to see some farmers switch to other farming models entirely.

And so it has been for Andrew Jennings who exhibited his remaining show dairy cow almost a year after he took the galling decision to sell his 200-strong herd. He now specialises in breeding.

“It was down to the supermarkets ruining the milk price and over production in the world,” he said. “The thing that really got to me was the guy who bought them off me still sold his milk to Arla, as I did. He moved them three hours down the road and because he was on a supermarket contract his milk price went up by eight pence.”

The show offered Mr Jennings, who farms near Fountains Abbey, a brighter moment. His Holstein, Merrydale SS Polly, shown by his daughter Natasha, 17, clinched the supreme dairy championship - the third successive year the family has won the top title at Nidderdale.

The win was all the more impressive given that chief cattle steward Chris Metcalfe reported a “stronger show of dairy cattle” this year.

It was a cow bred by Mr Jennings that was named reserve dairy champion too - Abbey House GJ Marbella shown by Gavin Clarke, who farms at Brimham Rocks.

In the beef section, Limousin entries were up but the champion beef animal was a Belgian Blue X, Bonita Bootie, shown by Clare Cropper and John Mellin of Long Preston.

Reserve champion was a British Blue, Pendle Knock Em Out owned by Mark Hartley of Pendle Valley.

Nidderdale Show was first held in 1895 and it retains a core of long-standing supporters.

Retired farmer Allan Foster, 85, of Ripon, has been involved in the show for 65 years and he was in no doubt that the event remains in fine fettle.

“When I started on the committee the cattle steward asked me if I would look after the beef section and at the time there were three classes of Aberdeen Angus, three for Herefords and three of commercial,” Mr Foster said.

“Just look at how it has grown today - it’s tremendous.”