Community effort ensures Reeth Show survives after horror floods

Flooding, hailstones the size of pickled onions, sheep swimming for safety, cars lifted out of barns and floating down the road, bridges destroyed, footpaths, walls and bridleways swept away.

David Guy, president of Reeth Show, pictured at the showground. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

This was the scene of chaos and devastation in Arkengarthdale and Swaledale just under four weeks ago on the evening of Tuesday, July 30.

While first thoughts will have been for everyone’s lives and fortunately none were lost, the aftermath left Reeth, the principal village of Upper Swaledale, and its population of just over 700 with several huge headaches.

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Getting back to normal was first base, but with the annual Reeth Show – that will take place on Bank Holiday Monday (August 26) – almost on top of them there were huge problems to be overcome.

Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Second base was reconnecting the dale and while not everything is as yet permanently back in place, the main road through Swaledale from Richmond to Reeth and on to Muker, whose own show takes place the following week on Wednesday, September 4, is definitely open and there is a temporary bridge in place over Cogden Beck.

David Guy is chairman of Reeth & District Show, to give its official title. It’s his third year of a three-year term for the man who grew up in Grinton which, along with Reeth, was pretty much at the epicentre of last month’s deluge.

“What happened that night was a massive worry for everyone, for their property and in farmers’ and other businesses’ cases their livelihoods.

“It was also a huge concern for the show and quite simply Reeth Show would not be taking place this year without the amazing support and generosity that has been given by everyone who has come from far and wide to help.

Ruth Guy with her show team going to Reeth Show, which includes Blue Faced Leicesters, Scotch Blackface and North Cheviot sheep. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

“We have been overwhelmed by the response and cannot thank everyone enough for their time and extraordinary effort in making things right.

“We are still working on it now and will be right up until Monday morning when the procession with Reeth Brass Band and show officials make their way on to the showground.

“We had over 120 people here a couple of Sundays ago. Everyone came from all walks of life including young farmers clubs from Ryedale and County Durham.

“I’m sure there are many we should be mentioning right now but from the bottom of our hearts we salute all those who have played their part as the flooding went right through our showground.”

David is a welder by trade. He works for a company that makes ‘cleaning pigs’ that have nothing to do with agriculture.

They are the way in which oil and gas pipelines are cleaned. Growing up in the dale he served his time as a mechanic at Weighell’s Garage, as it was once called, at the end of the showground, where he worked for 13 years before working in agriculture for around 15 years initially with Michael Barker a little further down the dale, before working in the agricultural contracting business at David Greenwood’s farm at Walburn Hall.

“I worked on tractors and forage harvesters from North Yorkshire right down to near Hull in East Yorkshire,” said David. “I drove current machines like a Claas Jaguar at the time.

“These days I drive a vintage Massey Ferguson 135 tractor manufactured in 1967 that I bought many years ago from a farmer in Arkengarthdale.

“We use it on our small five-acre farm run by my wife Ruth where we have a flock of 25 Scotch Blackface breeding ewes. I restored the tractor fully 10 years ago and enjoy taking it out on local tractor runs and at Hunton Steam Gathering. My dad was also a motor mechanic at Weighell’s and I’ve always been useful with my hands in making and repairing things. I’ve made log splitters and post knockers amongst other items.”

It’s a family affair at Reeth Show as Ruth and the couple’s youngest daughter Claire Louise, now I’Anson, will be showing Ruth’s Scotch Blackface and Claire Louise’s North Country Cheviots. The ladies will also be involved in the cooking competitions.

Ruth, whose maiden name is Walls, is a farmer’s daughter from West Rounton, near Northallerton.

“My father had Mashams and Mules and I’d always fancied some Jacobs, so dad bought me a couple that got me started.

“I remember showing Jacobs for the first time at Reeth many years ago and coming home with two third place rosettes. I carried on and showed them at the Great Yorkshire before eventually coming out of them.

“I went into the Scotch Blackface five years ago buying my initial stock from Ivor Allonby from near Kirkby Stephen. I’m still at an early stage with them but last year I had champion in the

Any Other Breed classes at Nidderdale Show and Masham Sheep Fair.

“Claire Louise had a fabulous year with her North Country Cheviots in 2017.

She had Reserve Supreme Champion with a gimmer shearling at the Great Yorkshire Show having won in the Interbreed Hill Breed and went on to win in the Pairs alongside Will Thompson of Kelso’s tup.

“That year her gimmer shearling won everywhere including Wensleydale and at Reeth where it won the Any Other Breed title before going on to be overall Supreme on Field champion.

“She only has 17 breeding ewes, so she doesn’t have a lot to choose from, but she also had a good year in 2018. Her husband Andrew also has a Bluefaced Leicester flock.

“Our oldest daughter Melissa used to show Jacobs too and had success at many shows, but her teaching career, where she is also doing very well, has taken over her time.”

Ruth is constantly busy with the sheep, the farm and her varied roles including working as a part-time carer at Sycamore Hall in Bainbridge and as a cleaner of holiday cottages.

She has been down at the showground with many others all of this week making sure Reeth Show looks as good as it possibly can be.