Woman presides over Nidderdale show for the first time

TRADITION DICTATES that an annual gathering of farmers in Pateley Bridge heralds the final chapter in the region’s local agricultural show season, and today’s Nidderdale Show again brought a grand celebration of rural life at the summer’s end.

Natasha Jennings, 16, with the Champion Dairy from Hill House Farm, Fountains Abbey at Nidderdale Agricultural Society Show 2015. 21 September 2015. Picture Bruce Rollinson

For the first time in the show’s long history, Nidderdale was being presided over by its very first female president in Margaret Liddle, and there was a change to the format of the show in the main ring, which featured a parade and presentation of all the horse cup winners after the horse, pony and heavy horse showing classes concluded in the morning.

Afterwards, the star attraction was entertainment from the all-female cast of the Galloping Acrobatics Display Team, followed by speed shearing, terrier racing and showjumping.

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The show, first held in 1895, is a key date in the diary for livestock showing, with champion beasts from earlier in the season making an appearance.

Natasha Jennings, 16, with the Champion Dairy from Hill House Farm, Fountains Abbey at Nidderdale Agricultural Society Show 2015. 21 September 2015. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Welcome to Yorkshire tourism chief and Wensleydale farmer Gary Verity was one of the judges in the sheep pens where Nosterfield-based chartered surveyor and auctioneer Ernie Sherwin’s Wensleydale sheep picked up the trophy for supreme champion.

As well as winning overall, Mr Sherwin’s gimmer shearling, Bluebell, was a winner in its class for the fourth time this year, repeating earlier victories at Wensleydale, the Great Yorkshire and Ryedale shows.

Mr Sherwin said: “I can’t believe it. I’ve never shown here before but have judged, in 1990 and 2003.

“She has wide shoulders and the judge said he had never seen a fleece like it.”

He also won the best fleece in the wool classes.

Reserve sheep champion was a Beltex shearling shown by James Bailey, of Ivanhoe Livestock, Bedale.

With the average age of a farmer now 59, there is a challenge for show committees to protect their futures by encouraging new blood. Ahead of the show, Nidderdale Young Farmers Club held a stockjudging competition for 54 members.

Chris Prince, an advisory member at the club, said: “There are some good young farmers in Nidderdale but it’s keeping them interested and involved, that’s the challenge. It’s difficult because they go off to university and broaden their horizons, but farming is a lifestyle choice. It’s your decision what you get involved in on any particular day. It’s a way of life no other industry can offer.”

Louise Gibbon, 13, of Pateley Bridge, came second in the junior shepherdess lamb class with six-month-old Texel, Bonnie, and had no doubt about her future career.

“I’ve been coming to Nidderdale Show since I was born but this is the first time I’ve shown in the sheep classes. I want to farm with sheep when I’m older.”

Despite low lamb prices, down from around £1.70 per kilo last year compared to £1.50 this year at Pateley Bridge Auction Mart, the mart’s chairman Judy Middlemiss, said: “Sheep farmers are approaching the end of the year in a fairly good position. The grass and winter feeds have been plentiful, particularly silage, so feed-wise they are going into winter in good shape.”

The show’s champion pig was a three-year-old Large White shown by Charlotte Holding of York, while in the dairy cattle championship, the overall winner was Fountains Abbey farmer Andrew Jennings with a Holstein called Merrydale SS Polly. Churchroyd Gentle 92 shown by IRG Collins and Partners was the reserve champion.

In the beef classes, a 16-month-old Limousin cross heifer presented by Phil and Sharon Sellers of Thorpe Tilney, Lincolnshire, was named supreme champion and in reserve was Chester Brown, of Lockton near Pickering, with his homebred British Blue in-calf heifer, exhibited on his behalf by the Dave Hall Show Team of Rillington.

The Mayor of Pateley Bridge, Stanley Lumley, said Nidderdale Show played an important social role.

“The show is one of the highlights of the year when everyone comes down from the hills to meet friends and it’s a good social event. It’s once again a very big show for a one-day event.”

Usually as many as 17,000 people attend, but early showers may have affected the number of visitors early in the day. Nonetheless, Paul Fryer, the show’s honorary press and sponsorship secretary, hailed it a success, saying: “The quality of livestock this year has been very good and that is no surprise at Nidderdale. Overall, it has been another very successful day.”