Young boys in tweed jackets confidently selected faux stones to replicate the construction of a dry stone wall, a toddler worked rubber udders to milk an imitation cow and tiny sheep handlers stood as tall as their animals as they stepped out into the ring.
The weekend-long Countryside Live event at Harrogate’s Great Yorkshire Showground seeks to enthuse and inspire new generations about food, farming and nature. Held by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society for its 17th year, it usually attracts a family audience of about 12,000 visitors over its two days.
“I hope they have had fun,” said show director Charles Mills on the effect he hoped the show had on young attendees. “They have been able to see the livestock up close and reach out and touch the pigs and sheep and the likes, and if we can just influence a few children to think about working with livestock in the future, or to think about farming as a career, then we will have succeeded.”
This is a show that fuses core agriculture with family fun – from crafts activities and food sampling to live lifestyle interviews with special guests. The result is an entry level-style insight into all things countryside.
Animal exhibitors came from as far afield as Wales but there were Yorkshire success stories in the rings. Hannah Jackson, 23, of Huby near York wiped away a tear of joy as her 15-month-old Limousin bullock called Haribo was named supreme beef fatstock champion.
“It’s my first time as a champion overall at a big show, it’s something I’ve been dreaming of,” Miss Jackson said.
In the rare breed sheep championships, Andrew Fisher of Pateley Bridge showed a Clun Forest sheep – the first time the breed has featured at the show – to a reserve champion rosette.
He was pipped to the top prize by a Portland sheep presented by Hannah Rogerson from near Orton in Cumbria.
Leyburn’s Val and Martin Brown picked up the reserve champion ticket in the supreme pair of butcher’s lambs class for their Suffolk-Beltex Cross two-piece, beaten only by a pair of Beltex lambs shown by Ian Lancaster of Clitheroe.
For the first time, the cattle were shown inside one of the showground’s main halls. The section featured calf classes for the first time and the supreme pedigree calf champion was a Belgian Blue heifer put forward by Mark Hallam of Derbyshire.
The headline special guest was Sheffield-raised TV presenter Julia Bradbury, who stepped into the sheep ring to hand out one of the trophies. The former Countryfile host told The Yorkshire Post of her passion to inspire people to connect better with the great outdoors.
“As human beings, research has now proven all around the world, that time spent outdoors is so good for our mental health and physical health. We have evolved over millions of years out there, we were hunter gatherers and that existence is still important to our DNA these days and this kind of event just cements it.”
Ms Bradbury was joined on stage during a series of live Q&As by Amanda Owen, aka The Yorkshire Shepherdess, while the stars of Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet, Peter Wright and Julian Norton were also interviewed.
Mr Norton said a countryside career was a fulfilling one.
“Working in the open air we are connected with the elements every day, it’s challenging but a brilliant privilege.”
Mr Wright told of his concerns for his profession because of young vets quitting after only a year or two. “If we have got our selection criteria right (at veterinary schools), how is it that they leave the profession in droves?” he said.
The Yorkshire Vet is in its ninth series but big queues to meet its co-stars told of the series’ enduring appeal with viewers who are lapping up rural programming and fuelling interest in countryside events like this weekend’s in Harrogate.