Photo: Kilnsey Show fell racers stream up the crag
One of the great joys of any region, county or dale is when communities get together to celebrate all that they grow, their farmers, their traditions and all that makes a great day out.
Here in Yorkshire we have a wealth of Agricultural Shows and if you are really lucky your visit will coincide with one of them.
I have chosen three to just give you an example of what you might find at any of them.
- Malton Agricultural Show July 2nd, 2017
- Kilnsey Show, August 29th , 2017
- Nidderdale Show, September 25th, 2017
These are the shows where the farming community comes together to show off the best cattle, sheep and horses. There is pride here, there is heritage here and there is joy and laughter. My Auntie Nellie would be disappointed in me in that I can’t tell what makes a great Swaledale sheep, or that I can’t tell my Teeswater from my Wensleydale. But you will have such a time wandering the pens, chatting to the farmers and their families. They will explain in great detail what makes a champion.
Horses are an essential part of our landscape, either in terms of working horses; the great shires that pull a plough, wagon or load through the forest. Or, the show jumpers: those that fly over fences, streams and hedges. You are going to find both at these shows. Some competing in the show jumping arena, the others competing for the best of breed.
Often these shows are combined with a whole range of sports and there is none finer, or more demanding than the Kilnsey Fell Race. Kilnsey Crag is a great lump of limestone that sticks out over Upper Wharfedale. It is a magnet for rock climbers, but on show day it is the fell runners who take centre stage.
A fell race is really simple. You find the steepest hill you can find, you start at the bottom and run all the way up and a bit more, before running down again and the first one back at the start is the winner.
Kilnsey Crag is huge. They run from the show field up the side of the rock and then disappear over the top to a marker on the moor. Watching from the show field you see them returning as tiny figures running along the sky line before tumbling off the edge, sliding down some scree over a wall, over another and them they are down in the field again, breathless and beaming in triumph.
Why they do it? Because they can and they start young, there are adult and children’s races.
If this too energetic, then how about watching a dry stone wall being built, yes, we have dry stone walling competitions. It is actually very exciting, but it does take all day and you will discover how to build a dry stone wall.
Then there are the iconic sheep dog trails. Watching a Hill Farmer and their dog working in harmony to gather the sheep, guide them through gates and bring them to the pen has a timeless quality to it. It doesn’t always go to plan, but there is such a bond between them, the shepherd and their dog.
Take your time to let your senses drink it all in and then when you need to steady yourself, there is the produce tent. Who has grown the best onions, made the best jam and scones? You will find a bewildering array of prizes and produce, there will be tears of joy and tears of disappointment as the competitors search for the all important rosette standing next to their cake, or not.
These are days to relish and take your time over. There will be brass bands; there will be cups of tea with cake. Your lunch might be award-winning pies with foaming pints of beer, or more refined sandwiches and mineral water.
You can buy at one of a multitude of stalls jams and chutneys to take home. Or, those wellington boots that you have always promised yourself, best of all a cake from the local Women’s Institute stall, with those lingering memories of the Rylestone Calendar Girls.
My favourite, my Auntie Nellie and Uncle Harry’s favourite as Hill Farmers, shepherds really, was the Nidderdale Show. This is the last one of the season and it is where the farmers come together to meet friends, celebrate another summer and look forward the harvest and the markets to come. It stands at the change of season from summer to autumn and the Dales look magnificent in all the fading glory of summer.
Tread softly and you will have a day to cherish for years to come.
Yorkshire’s Best Guides would love to take you to one of these shows, their local knowledge and love of all things Yorkshire will add so much to your day.