Sheep surge sees 122nd Kilnsey Show firmly connect with Dales farming traditions

A Yorkshire Dales institution welcomed a record entry of sheep, in a landscape characterised by centuries-old grazing traditions.

Sheep are judged at the 122nd Kilnsey Show. Picture by Simon Hulme.
Sheep are judged at the 122nd Kilnsey Show. Picture by Simon Hulme.

The National Park's iconic dry stone walls for which it is internationally famous were originally built to effectively pen sheep on farmland, and at yesterday's Kilnsey Show extra pens had be provided in order to accommodate its increasingly popular sheep section.

Upland sheep farming is expected to be the most affected by forthcoming political upheaval owing to the sector's trade currently being largely reliant on key European export markets, but entry numbers for the show at the foot of Kilnsey Crag seemed to betray any nervousness over the future.

Matt Mason, the show’s chief sheep steward, said the wider political dimension was not dominating conversation around the pens, as he hailed exhibitors' enthusiasm.

Hannah Brown with the show's supreme beef champion. Picture by Simon Hulme.

“It is the biggest showing of sheep we have ever had, so much so that they are spread across extra pens,” he said.

“The any other breed class grows every year, Blue Faced Leicester numbers have virtually doubled and the Swaledales had dwindled in recent years but they are now well back up.

“Kilnsey is the place to be. It’s good timing. Sheep are coming into their best at this time of the year, particularly Mule gimmers that are just coming to market now.”

The pick of a huge field of entries proved to be a homebred shearling Charollais shown by smallholder Kenton Foster, who runs 30 ewes on 10 acres at Grinton.

It was a first Kilnsey supreme championship for the farmer whose exhibit has now earned winning rosettes on each of its three show outings this year.

Mr Foster, who oversaw Nidderdale Show as its chairman on Sunday, said he hoped to take the sheep to compete in its breed champion of champions class at Malham Sheep Fair in October.

In reserve was a homebred shearling Texel, one of 45 ewes run by Jill Perrings at Giggleswick. It too has enjoyed an enviable record, having also won the championship at Gargrave Show this month.

The show's supreme dairy champion was Bonita, a Holstein shown by Isaac Lancaster which won the same prize at last year’s show. The four-year-old is part of a 260-strong milking herd and produces about 60 litres a day.

It is owned by Mr Lancaster in partnership with William and Michael Oldfield of Newsholme near Gisburn and was making its first show appearance of the season.

It will now go on to be shown at the dairy day in Telford next month.

Reserve dairy champion was Showdale Fitz Pledge shown by Jennie Booth. The homebred Holstein won the supreme championship at Malham Show at the weekend. The second calver produces 65 litres a day and is from a pedigree herd of 155 cows that are milked with robots.

The beef champion was a homebred Limousin presented by the Richardson family and shown by Hannah Brown and Ben Richardson of Appleby.

Their 20-month-old winner, Mystyle Nandini, produced from Aultside Lambrini, was the reserve breed champion at the Great Yorkshire Show and overall cattle champion at Wensleydale Show.

Chris Windle, who has taken over the show's chairmanship role from longstanding predecessor Robert Lambert, said it had been a "superb" show.

"There is a lot of work that goes into this show. Seeing so many smiling faces makes it all so worthwhile."

Extra dimension to show's food offer

Award-winning Keelham Farm Shop brought a fresh focus to Kilnsey Show’s expanded farmers’ market.

The food retailer, which has outlets in Bradford and Skipton, sponsored the section where a series of cooking demonstrations were given; including one involving William Chew of Mak Tok in Sheffield which produces artisan Malaysian chilli paste.

Keelham produce and gin and beer made in Yorkshire were also available for show visitors to buy.

Victoria Robertshaw, Keelham’s chief executive, said: “We are all about supporting local and community, and farmers and producers, and we have never done a kind of Keelham roadshow. So we have brought a little bit of Keelham to Kilnsey.”

She said she hoped the cooking demos encouraged more people to try home cooking.

“Cooking is quite simple and easy, and people shy away from it, but cooking from fresh, with no rubbish in it, has to be the best.”

Famous race

No Kilnsey Show passes without its traditional race up and down the crag that looms large over the showfield.

The arduous climb and descent is an awe-inspiring spectacle at the end of the competitive classes at the show.

The winner of this year's senior race was Nick Swinburn in a time of seven minutes, 53 seconds. Joe Hudson finished second in a time of eight minutes and four seconds, narrowly ahead of Simon Bailey who crossed the finish line just three seconds later.