Generational boost from return of Masham Sheep Fair

Brothers Hayden, nine, (left) and Kitson, four, from Swinton looking at a Texel tup at the Masham Sheep Fair. Picture by Gary Longbottom.
Brothers Hayden, nine, (left) and Kitson, four, from Swinton looking at a Texel tup at the Masham Sheep Fair. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Old traditions die hard and a fresh crop of young faces gave reason to suggest the annual gathering of sheep in the market town of Masham is a spectacle that will continued to be played out for generations to come.

Sheep farming futures may be uncertain because of the trade’s reliance on the European export trade but at Masham Sheep Fair, a turnout of 40 young handlers showed that the enthusiasm for a rural livelihood so entwined with Yorkshire’s countryside heritage remains undimmed.

Visitors peruse a line up of Jacob sheep at Masham Sheep Fair. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Visitors peruse a line up of Jacob sheep at Masham Sheep Fair. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Held a week later this year because of the cycling UCI Road World Championships passing through the town last weekend, the annual volunteer-run event produced busy scenes as a wide assortment of sheep breeds were assembled in pens for judging in the streets.

As has been a feature at agricultural shows throughout the year, there was another noticeable increase in Ryeland sheep numbers, event committee member Susan Briggs reported.

Despite a rain-soaked conclusion to the weekend-long gathering yesterday, Ms Briggs said: “It has gone remarkably well. We have had so many young handlers which is brilliant.

“One thing I noticed was how many of the older generation went over to the young ones and encouraged them. That sense of community is getting stronger and stronger and given the uncertainty in the sector, it is good to see.”

Shelagh Prescott from Northumbeland trimming her Wensleydale sheep ready for judging at the Masham Sheep Fair. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Shelagh Prescott from Northumbeland trimming her Wensleydale sheep ready for judging at the Masham Sheep Fair. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Some 23 entries were received in the nine and under section, in addition to another 17 in the 10 years-plus classes.

Such an uptake offers great encouragement, Ms Briggs said.

“The fair has been going now for over 30 years. A lot of the people involved have been part of it from the start, and quite a lot of them are in their 70s. But there is something very special about the show. There is this generosity from visitors that empowers the community and volunteers. It’s quite extraordinary.”

The fair is expected to have raised about £10,000 for local charities, including the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

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