Royal Show 2000 - July 3rd - 6th

It's billed as the biggest and grandest event of Britain's countryside year, and this year's four day Royal Show provided everyone with an interest in the countryside with lots to see and do. Held at the National Agricultural Centre in Warwickshire's Stoneleigh Park, the rain held off for your Webmaster's visit to the event. It's several times larger than your average County show and is spread over so many acres that a one day visit isn't really long enough if you want to ferret around every stand and have detailed questions to ask.

Farriers Competition - 9k
Farriers compete in a 'timed'
horse shoeing contest.
No Show would be complete without its competitions and the Royal Show had them in abundance - everything from the best cattle, sheep, poultry and flowers right down to the National Farrier's Competition.

When I arrived on the scene they were running the Heavy Horse Shoeing event which requires a competitor to make one fore and one hind from flat steel, and then fit these. A third, bevelled, specimen shoe must also be produced, and all must be hammer finished. The time to complete the task is 60 minutes.

Although the Show is an event where countryside enthusiasts can do a spot of retail therapy, it has a very important practical commercial aspect to it, and in these times of pressured farm gate prices this year's Show had a particular focus on the profitability element of farming.

The move towards 'bigger' production units and machinery - in an attempt to drive running costs down - was one of the many topics reviewed through demonstrations. Similarly, representatives from the major supermarket chains were providing their pennyworth on product pricing and sourcing.

Dropping in on the New Forest Pony Breeding & Cattle Society stand I learnt that the Society has had a grant - which it has had since the early part of this century - withdrawn, and which potentially threatens its work.

In another part of the sprawling Show I found the chatty ladies of the WFU, or Women's Food and Farming Union to you and I. Funnily enough, I was aware of the WFU's existence but had never known where they were based. As it turned out their main office IS at Stoneleigh Park.

Driving championships - 9k
Prize giving at one of the many 'driving' championships.

A Country show is the perfect showcase for country fayre, and the Briyish Food Pavillion and other food stands had a quite amazing variety of food and drink. From specialist cordial and drinks producers to pork and lamb products, there was plenty to taste, try and buy.

In the Country Lifestyles section there were hundreds of stores offering crafts and clothes, as well as those devoted to matters such as rural wildlife crime and rural Organisations. And then there were added bonuses such as displays of falconry and fly fishing.

Maize display - 11k
The Show was a showcase for forage
maize and similar crops.
Anyone who follows news of Britain's countryside will know that there are constant calls for farmers to diversify into other areas, whether it's tourism related or looking for new cash crops. Interestingly, one of the new pieces of machinery I saw on display was for the harvesting of coppice willow - an up and coming bio-mass energy source.

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