Sunday, 28 September 2014

Showing off country sports

I have to attend some of the larger “countryside” shows as part of my work – hefty events such as the Game Fair and the snappily titled “Cereals”! Non-farming friends often ask how a whole show can possibly just be based on growing cereals and I find myself explaining that it should really be called the “Arable” or “Crops” show as this would actually describe the occasion far better. Anyway, having spent long days working on show stands, my enthusiasm to attend rural events in my spare time is somewhat diminished.

However, some of the small countryside shows that are true to their core elements, minus all the candy floss and trinkets, are still very much worth a visit. Near to my home is the small town of Alresford in Hampshire and each year the Alresford show is held on the nearby Tichborne estate grounds. It remains a good show, even though it has grown in size, it still offers all that you might expect – many breeds of farm stock, a wide mix of stands and of course plenty going on in the central ring.

Once this show is over, most of the marquees are left in place so that another event can be held the following weekend. The Countryside Alliance put on a wonderfully compact little show called the “Hampshire Country Sports Day” and I must say that it reminds of the very early days of the Game Fair. Incidentally, many people are unaware that the original Game Fair was started by the organisation I work for – the GWCT - until it grew so large that we passed it over to the CLA to run. We still continue to run the highly successful Perthshire based Scottish Fair though.

Anyway – back to the Hampshire Country Sports Day! It is all about Hunting, Shooting, Fishing, Falconry and country crafts and not a lot more – perfect! Dogs almost outnumber people and there is a real feeling that the show is all about a pleasant family day out, with something on offer whatever your particular interest is in the countryside!

Of course the show is well attended by country folk – easily identified by the clothes they wear - but also many people visit from across the county and as I watched the crowds, it dawned on me that this might be the only occasion all year that many of them would see a Peregrine falcon stoop, a huntsman and hounds or watch a fly being expertly cast.

These events provide an important show case where people from all walks of life can mix, watch demonstrations and ask questions. I feel that far too often, those of us who practise country sports don’t spend enough time talking to those people who would no more kill something than fly over the moon. We are not asking them to become over-night devotees of field sports, but instead we simply want them to learn a little of the ways of the countryside, so that terms such as the GWCT’s “Conservation through wise use” does not seem too ridiculous.

I also popped into the Hampshire Hunt (known as the HH) open day – whose kennels are in earshot of my home if the wind is in the right direction! Almost more of a country sports fete really – but most enjoyable!

Anyway – here are a few photos from these local, smaller shows.

She had to run to the far end of the arena before the hawk got the lure!

Wow! She had a great turn of speed!

Nearly there!

Made it. An ice cream was her prize!

The falconer also got his young Peregrine to fly under the horse!

Black Lab trio waiting for the gun dog trials

Just to complete the scene - Tichborne Park Cricket club were also in action

A trio of HH hounds

I could photograph hounds for ever!

Part of the HH pack

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