After enjoying my visit to the Great Yorkshire Show last year I was even more excited to return to Harrogate once again to attend the 161st agricultural show. This three day event is one of the biggest in the English calendar and showcases the best of British farming, food and the countryside plus lots more as well. 130,000 visitors converge on the site over the three days but as the showground is vast, it never feels too crowded.
The large showground is located on the outskirts of Harrogate with numerous entrances and ample free car parking facilities. The show opens daily at 7.30 a.m. and from previous experience I would recommend arriving by 9.30 a.m. to both ensure that you are able to park close to one of the entrance gates and to make the most of your day out.
Having previously travelled by car, I decided to take the train this year as there are regular services between Leeds and Harrogate taking only 35 minutes. To encourage the use of public transport, tickets booked with Northern Rail offer an additional £2 discount from the advance ticket price of £26 (standard entry price £29). After leaving the train at Harrogate station I followed signs to the bus station outside the front entrance where a complimentary shuttle service operates throughout the day to transport visitors to the showground entrance. I boarded the bus at 9.00 a.m. and it set off a few minutes later with another bus taking its place so I was impressed with the service and would recommend arriving by public transport.
It was around 9.30 a.m. by the time I entered the gates and it was already buzzing with activity. I picked up a programme to help me plan my day and settled down with a welcome cappuccino and a slice of flapjack whilst glancing through it.
The Forestry arena was nearby so I wandered across and watched some heats of the Great Britain Pole Climbing championships. The competitors whizzed up the poles so fast, it was unbelievable. I would probably have just managed the first rung.
In the adjacent Woodcrafts area I then saw a monster chipper at work and tried my hand at a little leaf painting which surprisingly turned out quite well despite not having any artistic talents whatsoever. It must have been the expert guidance that helped to see me through.
Across from the Forestry Arena lies the Home and Gift Hall and in the foyer I came across the Yorkshire Water bar. Visitors were queuing up to pull their own pints into refillable bottles which I thought was an excellent initiative in connection with their ‘Yorkshire on Tap’ campaign. This large hall is housed in a permanent building and features everything for the home plus high quality gift ideas from local craft shops. I bought a few greetings cards of local beauty spots and decided to pop back to the Gift Hall later as I didn’t want to be carrying bulky items around all day.
What I’d really come to see were the animals with around 8,500 cattle, sheep and horse entries all hoping to return home with one of the coveted trophies. Sadly there were no pigs this year as tests were still being carried out from an unconfirmed illness at another agricultural show a few weeks earlier. Animal welfare at The Great Yorkshire Show is of paramount importance and the organisers had taken the precautionary measure to eliminate any potential risk. I’d really enjoyed watching the Pig of the Year contest the previous year and it was sad walking past the pens laid out with fresh straw and seeing them empty, but safety comes first.
On a brighter note, I enjoyed wandering around the cattle rings and viewing some of the fine animals. I watched some judging of the Charolais class beef and as I was stood next to the family of one of the entrants I learnt a little about this large breed of cattle. Originating from France, they are horned with a distinctive white coat and are very muscular with a bull weighing up to 1100 kg and a cow 900 kg.
A favourite breed of mine are the Belted Galloway’s so I paused awhile to admire them. The breed is distinctive with its broad white belt. These cattle originate from the Galloway region of south west Scotland and are accustomed to living on windswept moorlands.
One of the highlights of the second afternoon of the show is the grand parade of cattle which takes place in the main ring featuring all the winners. Army cadets walk in front of each breed carrying identification signs and the farmers wearing their white coats proudly lead their livestock around the arena for everyone to see.
Leaving the cattle, I had a complete change and headed off to the Fashion Show which is approached by the Slingsby Gin Garden. The Kuoni Catwalk now takes place in a new permanent building and features talented designers. On my visit, models were showcasing wool capes designed by a talented Yorkshire sheep farmer which would be tempting for the cooler months ahead.
Fashion shows take place four times daily and are very popular if you can drag yourself away from the gin garden! Naturally, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity of sampling some local gin and the one infused with locally grown rhubarb was a definite hit with me, served with their suggested mixer of dry ginger rather than tonic water.
Next it was a visit to the Great Yorkshire food theatre where celebrity chefs along with head chefs from award winning local restaurants were taking part in 30 minute demonstrations. One had just begun, so I took a seat and watched one of the experts at work making it all look so easy and inspiring the audience to replicate the dish at home. Best of all, there was a chance to sample the finished dish which was absolutely delicious.
My focus then returned to the countryside as I made my way to the blacksmith’s forge to see the farriers at work. Competing over the three days farriers make horseshoes from scratch for different breeds of horses. The classes were both for apprentices and experienced farriers and the open layout enabled visitors to watch the process from start to finish. I was surprised how calm the horses were, standing patiently whilst their old shoes were removed and new ones fitted.
It was then back to the main ring for something totally different and new to the show – a display by a motorcycle stunt team! I really wasn’t sure what to expect and whether I would enjoy this but the Great Yorkshire Show had done their research extremely well with the death defying display keeping everyone mesmerised. The Bolddog Lings stunt team are managed by one of Europe’s top freestyle motocross riders and use one of the most sophisticated landing ramps available worldwide which they drove into the arena and assembled in minutes. The three riders kept the huge audience spellbound performing a series of dare devil tricks whilst flying 35 feet into the air with their fast moving flips and landings. Not something to try at home but it was so exciting to watch the stunt team in action.
After the exhilaration of the stunt team we were then treated to some high quality show jumping, the fences looking so much bigger than when viewed on television.
To complete my lovely day I planned to go for a pot of tea but what I actually ended up doing was even better. Have you heard of tea infused gin? No, I hadn’t either, but Masons Yorkshire Gin based in nearby Northallerton have invented one and named it Tea Edition based on a London dry gin with Yorkshire tea. Sipping my drink, I found it to be very refreshing, the subtle hint of tea balancing the sweet citrus, pine and juniper beautifully. A perfect end to another fun filled day at the Great Yorkshire Show – a place to enjoy the best of the countryside alongside splendid entertainment.
A date for your diaries, the 162nd Great Yorkshire Show will take place between Tuesday 14th and Thursday 16th July 2020 at the Harrogate show ground. More information can be found on the Great Yorkshire Show website.
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