The Great Yorkshire Show is one of England’s premier agricultural events and takes place over three days in July each year celebrating the best of food, farming and rural life. I hadn’t had an opportunity to visit for several years so I was excited to be heading back to spend the day there. The showground is located in Harrogate, North Yorkshire with ample car parking and for those arriving by public transport, a free shuttle bus operates to and from Harrogate railway station at regular intervals throughout the day.
Depending on the direction of travel, there are numerous entrances to the showground. We followed road signs and were directed to parking a short distance from the Golden entrance. It’s important to remember where you have parked your car and at which entrance, as last year more than 45,000 cars converged on the site. We were up early and arrived at 9.15 a.m. so we didn’t have too far to walk to the entrance gate. Admission is £25 if purchased in advance or £29 on the day and although this might sound excessive, there is so much to see and do, it’s actually very good value.
The first ever Great Yorkshire Show was held in York in 1838 with the first attendance figures being collected in 1842 when 6,044 visitors were recorded. Since its early days the show has steadily grown in size with annual attendances now exceeding 130,000 over its three days. We started our day viewing the animals parading in the judging rings. More than 8,500 animals compete at the show annually and I was attracted to the Highland cattle with their long horns and thick, wavy coats. This breed originate from the Highlands of Scotland and their unusual double coats of hair are the longest of any cattle breed making them well suited to the harsh winter conditions.
In the next ring we found another Scottish breed of cattle, the Aberdeen Angus. This variety of small beef cattle originate from north east Scotland and the breed has been named as the U.K.’s most popular native beef breed. Judging for beef and dairy classes takes place on the first two days of the show and culminates with the Grand Cattle Display in the main ring on the 2nd and 3rd days.
Continuing our tour of the livestock we paused briefly to view some pigs before making our way over to the sheep enclosures. There were so many breeds of sheep to inspect ranging from Blue Texels to Herdwicks. We stopped to watch a sheep standing patiently on a table whilst its handler gave it a final trim just before entering the judging ring.
At 11.00 a.m. the sheep shearing classes got underway so we took a seat to see the first two heats of the junior shearing championships. Each shearer had three sheep to shear, the winners being judged on a combination of time taken and technique. The crowd were really getting behind the competitors, cheering them on as the piles of wool surrounding the sheep grew.
After the excitement of the sheep shearing we decided to take a look at some of the trade stands where we found country clothing, footwear, garden furniture and probably everything else you could think of loosely connected with rural life. In the Country Life pavilion, small stands showcased talented artisans and craftspeople from around the country. I admired the traditional rocking horses which would add a touch of nostalgia to any home and found some of the handmade jewellery tempting.
It was then time for lunch and as we were heading over to one of the marquees, we paused to watch a Great Gatsby band called the Casablanca Steps who were performing on the President’s Lawn in front of the bandstand. Lots of people were enjoying a picnic listening to the music but we decided to eat in one of the many pavilions. Our buffet lunch there was very good, consisting of a ham and chicken salad with a slice of pork pie followed by some Wensleydale cheese and crackers. Wensleydale is a cheese originating from North Yorkshire and has a crumbly, moist texture. It rose in popularity and gained global fame after the cheese was featured in the animated Wallace & Gromit television programmes.
Feeling refreshed after our tasty lunch we continued our tour of the showground. Noticing a beekeeping section, we strolled over to take a look at what was going on and observed beekeepers demonstrating techniques with active beehives. They were dressed in full protective gear with see-through mesh veils giving them a strange appearance. Viewing was from behind a mesh fence so thankfully there was no danger of us getting stung. It was interesting to learn a little about how the bees make honey and its many uses.
Moving on from bees, our next stop was at the forestry and woodworking arena just in time to watch two qualifying heats in the Great British Pole Climbing competition. This involves racing up an 80ft pole as quickly as possible and was fun to watch. I found it hard to believe that they could climb to the top so quickly, there was no way I would have got up there at all.
Leaving there, we set off for the Flowers and Horticulture hall stopping on the way for a complimentary glass of Rhubarb gin courtesy of Slingsby’s, an award winning Yorkshire producer. I enjoy a gin and tonic but it was my first taste of a rhubarb gin which had a pleasant tart flavour and it hit the spot nicely on such a hot summer’s day. Back on track, we admired the many floral displays in the large floral hall. Here we found award winning delphiniums, chrysanthemums along with artistic displays of flowers and vegetables from nurseries around the U.K.
Our feet were starting to get a little tired as we made our way to the main ring of the showground. Tickets for the grandstand cost an additional £5.00 and are reserved for the day enabling visitors to come and go as often as they wish. It’s also possible to watch the events free of charge from the other sides of the arena where one can sit on benches or on the grassy slopes and have uninterrupted views of the arena.
We had arrived just in time to see one of this year’s show highlights Lorenzo, the Equestrian Dynamo. The grandstand was full to over-flowing as the ten horse bare back dare-devil display got under way. Lorenzo performed spectacular manoeuvres whilst standing on the back of two horses. He must have developed an amazing sense of balance as he appeared to be very steady.
The other horses are trained to follow the leaders and move as one group. Lorenzo is one of the only horse trainers in the world to perform stunts such as these and his amazing routines left the showground audience spellbound.
It was then off to the Women’s Institute pavilion where we joined a queue that was snaking outside the door with customers waiting patiently for the WI’s delicious cream teas. They are very organised at the WI and it was only a matter of minutes before we were sitting at a long trestle table tucking into our freshly baked scones topped with jam and cream, accompanied by a pot of Yorkshire tea. We then had a little look at the home made produce and crafts on display before returning to our seats in the main ring to watch the show jumping competition. It was then getting late so we returned home after a fun filled day at the Great Yorkshire Show.
If this post has inspired you to come along to the next Great Yorkshire Show , it will take place between 9-11th July 2019.
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