Although this week’s mini-heatwave has been warmly welcomed there are those in the countryside for whom next Monday usually signals the onset of colder days and even chillier nights. That’s when Nidderdale Show, more commonly referred to as Pateley Show by the locals, takes place in Bewerley Park, Pateley Bridge.
This year’s new show chairman, farmer Chris Prince was upbeat about its weather prospects.
“It’s the end of the summer season of agricultural shows and everybody usually says they start putting their fires on after Pateley Show, but this year whisper it softly but it looks like it could be sunny, we might even have people in their bikinis alongside the river!”
While the forecast may lead to an even greater attendance Nidderdale Show is already a significant crowd puller with 12,000-15,000 visiting every year. It is also one show that most of the seasoned cattle and sheep show people make a special note of in their diaries.
Chris and his family have competed in the past but with his new duties this year it will be the turn of son Martin and niece Mary to take part. They’ve shown stock before, as has daughter Anna.
“The cattle and sheep entries are very good and we’ve had to extend the cattle tent to get them all in this year. We’ve done okay as a family previously in the young farmers’ and local beast classes but not against the big boys. We see a number of entries from a lot of the really successful Yorkshire show people at Nidderdale.”
Chris was born at Toft Gate Farm where he and wife Caroline today run the farm, which runs to nearly 200 acres on seriously disadvantaged land 1,200ft above sea level near Greenhow, way above Pateley Bridge.
It’s also where Toft Gate Barn Café, that they opened two years ago with Caroline at the helm, has become a destination venue.
Chris has been involved with the show for many years.
“I’ve been on the show committee since I was 16 when I was chairman of Nidderdale YFC. We have around 70 on it and it includes our show director Trevor Stoney who I’m in contact with nearly every day and Sue Monk, who as Caroline says, is a damned good show secretary.
“My main involvement on show day will be helping solve problems that arise in a common sense way, but all of our stewards running their own sections are superb at what they do. The one area we could do with improving in the future is a few more younger people on the committee.”
Chris and Caroline have a suckler herd of 34 pedigree Limousin cows and bull them all. It is 34 years since Chris bought his first and having turned 50 this year he finally made his Great Yorkshire Show debut with a heifer at Harrogate.
“We took what we felt was the best heifer we’ve had for a long time, but we didn’t win any prizes. We enjoyed taking part and will do it again.
“We retain our best heifers as replacements and usually sell the rest as stores but we’ve kept more this year with the view that we will use them in the café.
“Ideally Caroline would like to open a farm shop to retail our own meat and other products but we need to find the finances to start taking that next step.
“Some of our bull calves go as stores into Skipton Auction Mart, but then we like to go with a couple of good ones to each of three main bull sales also held at Skipton, two in the spring and one in autumn. We took one this time that achieved £3,800.”
Caroline made the decision to go with Welsh Beulah sheep and she runs a flock of 180 ewes.
“They do well up here as a hardy sheep breed and the idea was that with them being a little smaller I could catch them myself. We breed around 50 of them pure and the rest are put to the Texel tup producing a butchers’ lamb. We keep four tups in all, but only one Beulah. I’m going to Wales with a neighbour the day after Pateley Show to buy this year’s.
“We produce enough gimmer lambs for replacements and sell wether lambs either fat or as stores in Pateley Bridge Auction Mart or now in the café where we use the Texel X Beulah.”
The couple understand that the harsh realities of hill farming mean other sources of income are necessary. Chris works as an engineer for Harrogate-based cinder toffee and fudge makers, Confectionery By Design, while Caroline rules the roost in the café.
“It took us nine months to convert from being where cows once stood and then pigs and turkeys had been housed with hay and straw above. We opened at the time when Le Grand Départ took place and we’ve gone from strength to strength, better than we ever expected.
“It takes some staffing and at the moment we have a team of around nine or ten. People love our homemade cakes, soups, quiches and our cappuccinos and mochas and coming here for the views.
“We try to bake and make nearly everything ourselves starting around 7am every morning and if we sell out we start baking again in the evening. The only things we don’t make ourselves at the moment are our own bread and one of our pies.
“Hill farmers are struggling and we’re not in stewardship schemes at the moment because we haven’t enough points to qualify for the higher level; and the entry level scheme has altered so much that with its current restrictions it’s not worth it for us. That has also had a knock-on effect because we can now no longer afford the lad who used to come and wall for us.
“The farming enterprise basically covers its costs at the moment. It is the café and Christopher going out to earn an additional income that makes sure we keep going.
“We shut the café on a Wednesday and Thursday each week so that I have some time with our family and to farm while Christopher is away at work.”
Nidderdale Show takes place at Bewerley Park, Pateley Bridge this Monday, on September 19.