Thousands enjoy celebration of autumn countryside

The South of England Agricultural Society Autumn Show 2017

Nearly 14,000 people enjoyed having a go at a wide variety of popular countryside sports, whilst celebrating harvest time at the annual Autumn Show & Game Fair at the South of England Showground in Ardingly, West Sussex [30 September & 1 October].

Dog agility, terrier racing, gundog scurries, clay pigeon shooting, fly fishing, falconry, archery, axe throwing, blacksmithing, bread making and scarecrow making were all available for people to try out over the weekend and the entire showground was buzzing with visitors of all ages enjoying the countryside, many accompanied by their dogs.

Iain Nicol, CEO of the South of England Agricultural Society said, “Each year our wide range of ‘have a go’ activities grow in popularity and it is has been fantastic to see so many thousands of people coming to enjoy the special atmosphere at this show and try out a new country sport or pursuit with top tips from our many experts. We were particularly pleased to welcome eight traction engines and an old fairground organ to the show this year which added a new soundscape and aroma to the show.”

In celebration of the South of England Agricultural Society’s 50th anniversary, a beautifully crafted wooden obelisk was unveiled at the show by Penelope Greenwood from the Balcombe Estate in West Sussex accompanied by Society Deputy President, Michael Lambert LVO and staff from the Forestry Department at the Balcombe Estate.

Said Mr Lambert, “The Society is absolutely thrilled and honoured to receive this stunning gift from the Greenwood family and the Balcombe Estate, who have both supported the Society so generously since it started. It will take pride of place in the middle of our wild flower garden at the showground and mark 50 years of significant work the charity has done in funding and supporting agricultural education and countryside learning.”

Michael Lambert LVO also presented the awards in this year’s Student Assignment Competition, which is funded by the Society and open to all students studying at land-based colleges in the region. Designed to encourage individual research, to improve knowledge and develop study skills and forms, this year’s worthy winners came from Plumpton College in East Sussex and Sparsholt College in Hampshire, while students from Brinsbury Campus at Chichester College and Merrist Wood College were awarded second and third prizes.

Autumn was celebrated in every way at the show with a fantastic number of entries in the flower arranging and horticultural competitions, organised by the BBC’s gardening expert Jean Griffin. Children, who had planted pumpkin seeds at the Spring Garden & Leisure Show earlier this year, brought back their wonderful pumpkins of all different sizes to put on display and were able to plant spring bulbs to take home and grow in time for the Spring Show in 2018.

First class main arena attractions on both days included Jonathan Marshall’s remarkable falconry on horseback display and new act this year, Chris Green the ‘Cornish Countryman’, entertained the crowds with his unique show of pigeon decoying, duck calling and building hides. On Saturday visitors watched the Kent & Surrey Bloodhounds take centre stage and on Sunday the hounds from Southdown & Eridge hunt were on parade as well as competitors taking part in the popular Donkey Show.

Clay pigeon enthusiasts entered the High Gun and Ladies High Gun competitions and the Team Shoot Challenge, organised by Northall Clay Pigeon Club and many others stopped to have a go at this popular country sport. Children enjoyed the pumpkin trail which offered a gentle journey around the showground stopping off to see the rabbits, poultry and farm animals; traditional funfair; kite flying and vintage agricultural vehicles, cars and traction engine display.

Said Michelle Nudds, Chair of the Autumn Show & Game Fair Committee, “Despite the weather forecast, we were delighted with the turnout again this weekend and want to thank all the trade stands and visitors for their support. People enjoyed a great range of shopping, crafts and plenty of locally produced food and drink, as well as freshly cooked game for people to taste run by the BASC. I was particularly pleased that we had so many rare gun dog breeds on display in the kennels which proved very popular with all our visitors.”

The South of England Showground is now looking forward to hosting the annual South of England Farming Conference on Wednesday 15 November and will close its 2017 show season with an expanded, magical Winter Fair, complete with giant snow globe on 25 & 26 November.

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