Town life a distant memory for Wensleydale Show president

Forty years ago Julie Clarke made her first appearance as an exhibitor in her new homeland of Wensleydale. She took part in the produce section at that time and next Saturday she will complete her two-year term as president of the Wensleydale Show in its centenary year.

Farmer Julie Clarke, who is president of Wensleydale Show.

Back in June 1974 Julie married Neville. She had been helping out at the legendary Thwaite Arms in Horsehouse, which led to them meeting and the die had seemingly been cast on her future up at Middle Farm in Woodale in Coverdale, but all was not quite as straight forward as those who know Julie today might think.

She was a West Riding girl used to lots of people and traffic and not the type of rush hour that involves a couple of tractors, a Land Rover and the local clergyman on his bike!

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“I was a school meals organiser and came from Lupset near Wakefield next to the M1. I had been working out of the Brighouse education office just off the M62 and so I was going through no end of traffic lights. When I arrived here in North Yorkshire there was just one pelican crossing in Northallerton and other than that no lights at all.

“I found I had to go back to the hustle and bustle of town life every three weeks because I was missing it, but in the fullness of time I became used to the peace and tranquillity of Woodale.”

Julie settled into her new roles as education catering adviser and farmer’s wife: “The title may have been much grander in North Yorkshire but I was doing the same work as before and was responsible for the vast area covering Hambleton and Richmondshire District Councils. I worked at County Hall in Northallerton until December 1983, when I was needed more to help on the farm.

“We farmed over 2,000 acres and had a breeding flock of 800 Dalesbred ewes from which we bred and still do breed Masham lambs. We would also bring in 200 hoggs each year and had a beef suckler herd of 60 cattle.”

Today Middle Farm has much less stock since Neville’s passing. He had suffered seriously from diabetes for many years.

“We now have 120 Dalesbred ewes and we’ve had around 170 Masham lambs this year. Our Masham gimmers are sold at Bentham Mart. Tony Clarke, no relation, looks after the farming side for me.”

Julie’s gradual increase in involvement with Wensleydale Show started because of her husband’s participation.

“Neville and his brother David showed their Dalesbred ewes and as they were involved so I took part in the Handicraft & Produce section. Eighteen years later in 1992 I was asked if I would become one of the secretaries for the section but realising that my speciality was food because of my working background I took on that side.”

In the past decade Julie has held the post of chairman for four years from 2005; became vice president for 2011-2012 and now president. She has seen the show go through many changes.

“Since moving to our current site on Bellerby Road we have seen the show develop tremendously. We’ve also taken note of what people want to see. We took postcodes of those people attending one year and it was quite enlightening. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of West Yorkshire and North East postcodes. It showed us that people were prepared to travel to our show and that we attract those who are not directly linked to agriculture.

“We now make a much greater point of bringing in main ring attractions such as the official Honda motorcycle stunt team Bolddog Lings who were featured on Britain’s Got Talent earlier this year. We’re also very fortunate to have a great current chairman in farmer David Ford who is coming up with new sections and ideas all the time and our Food and Farming marquee is now in its third year.”

Nonetheless, livestock still plays a central role - 167 cattle entries and over 570 sheep entries having been received in time for this year’s show.

Julie is not only president of Wensleydale Show, she is also WI Federation chairman of North Yorkshire West region and chairman of the Federation Catering Committee.

The 100th Wensleydale Show wil be held at Leyburn Showground on Saturday, August 23.

Hopes for big crowds

Wensleydale Show attracts around 7,000 visitors and while about two-thirds of them are from the dale itself, there are hopes that the awareness created by the Tour de France will boost numbers this year.

Judith Carlisle, the show’s marketing secretary, said: “We get a lot of holidaymakers and hopefully we will get some spin-off from Le Tour having passed through Leyburn and Jervaulx.”

The show’s guest of honour is Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive, Gary Verity, who lives in Coverdale and played a central role in bringing the Grand Départ of the cycle race to Yorkshire.