12 reasons to visit Surrey County Show 2014
- Credit: Sergeant Adrian Harlen
The biggest one-day agricultural show in the country, Surrey County Show is held within walking distance of Guildford High Street – and this year it’s back with a bang, quite literally! Matthew Williams highlights 12 reasons to visit
A very special year
Surrey County Show has more reason than usual to be in festive mood this year, with the show celebrating its 60th anniversary since the amalgamation in 1954 of two smaller agricultural societies. That’s not the only reason to break out the bubbly though; at the beginning of this year, event organiser Sonia Ashworth was made an MBE for her services to farming.
Infantry on the march
With the centenary commemorations of World War One, there will be a military theme to proceedings this year (see also galloping guns, below). In addition, the Surrey Infantry Museum, which is usually based at the National Trust’s Clandon Park near Guildford, will be making an appearance. An interactive display and exhibits showing what happened to our local boys when they left their farms and went to war will be among the highlights of their roadshow.
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Off the hoof
Anyone with even the slightest interest in rambling around the countryside will be well aware that Surrey is a haven for equestrian lovers – immaculate paddocks and well-kept bridleways are everywhere you look, and there’s horse riders seemingly around every corner when driving along our country lanes. As such, the Surrey County Show is always a delight for those of a horsey inclination. This year, as well as jumping and racing, there will be showing classes for hunters, sport horses and mountain and moorland ponies – plus there will also be a class for retrained racehorses. Every year, hundreds of beautiful young thoroughbreds fail to make it on the track and often face a bleak future. Retraining them into disciplines such as dressage or showjumping can offer another lease of life for those that don’t make the grade at the Epsom Downs, Kempton Park, Lingfield Park or Sandown Park racecourses.
Walk with the animals
The pinnacle of the show for the farming community is the magnificent livestock parade, with many different breeds of cattle and sheep. Make sure to look out for the giants of the cattle world, the jet black Aberdeen Angus, docile white-faced Herefords, glossy red Sussex, and brown and white Beef Shorthorn. Elsewhere, you may not have noticed that Guildford and Godalming have woolsacks prominent in their coats of arms but they are there! A sign that the wealth of Surrey was based for centuries on wool… so be sure to explore the sheep marquees too.
On the road
Also hitting the road this year will be the RAC Club, which is joining the show’s popular classic car display for the first time in the history of the event. In addition, they will also be joined by cars from the British Airways Classic Vehicle Club, meaning that this year’s show should appeal just as much to the Top Gear enthusiast as the Countryfile fanatic. The monster trucks, however, will not be returning to the parade ring this year.
Exploring rural life
Don your Barbour jacket, tweed flat cap and Hunter wellies and head to the Countryside Arena for a taste of rural living. Among this year’s highlights will be Huxley’s Experience Falconry Display, with the chance to see these amazing birds up close, the ever-popular Companion Dog Show, giving you the opportunity to bring your furry friend along and test your agility and skill, as well as demonstrations on fly-fishing.
To mark the anniversary of World War One, the magnificent cavalry horses of the King’s Troop Royal Artillery will be galloping gun carriages from the war across the grand arena. This spectacular set piece will be accompanied by the transformation of Surrey farmhands into Tommies marching off to the trenches, with a story telling the development of farm machinery over the last century.
When escaping to the ‘country’ from the ‘city’, the last thing you might expect to come across is yet more shops. However, those of a purchasing disposition will find Nirvana at Stoke Park with 40 acres set aside each year for neatly arranged and signposted shopping malls, selling everything from tractors to oriental spices and wellie boots to hot tubs and garden furniture.
With Surrey the most wooded county in the country, it would be remiss not to have a Woodland Area and you’ll find it adjacent to the Spectrum entrance in Jubilee Wood, where the importance of woodland and ways of living the green life are celebrated. Here you can watch craftsmen work their magic with willow wands and find out about charcoal burning, woodturning, coppicing and carving. In addition this year, there will be fan birds, rustic furniture, countryside conservation, besom brooms and much more besides.
The weird and the wonderful
It’s not just the obvious farmyard animals you’ll find at Stoke Park... The odd llama has been occasionally spotted posing for photos too – and you might even come across a giant African land snail (pictured below), which can grow to an impressive 20cm in length.
Field to plate
Local food remains a big attraction and this year’s Food Theatre resident chef will be former Masterchef: The Professionals semi-finalist and Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards 2013 finalist Ben Piette, who runs the London House restaurant in Old Woking. The man who won Surrey Life chef of the year, Fernando Stovell from Stovell’s in Chobham, will also be returning for a second time. The Farmers’ Market will offer lots of tasty treats as always.
Gardeners’ question time
Fears about giant snails in your garden, or any other unwelcome visitors for that matter, can probably be calmed with a visit to Gardeners’ Question Time. Join gardening expert John Negus to talk about growing your own, and collect seeds and other samples for your home during the day.
Need to know:
Surrey County Show takes place on spring bank holiday, Monday May 26, from 8am to 6pm, at Stoke Park, Guildford GU1 1ER. Tickets are available from surreycountyshow.co.uk or on the gate.
Share your photography from this year’s Surrey County Show @ www.surreylife.co.uk/photos