The New Forest and Hampshire County Show

2010 heralds 90 years of The New Forest and Hampshire County Show. But how did this popular event go from a tent in a forest field to top agricultural show?

The New Forest and Hampshire County Show celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. Founded in 1919 the charity The New Forest & Hampshire Agricultural Show Society (NFASS) held the first show at Bartley Cross in 1920. Back then it comprised of little more than one tent and a long rope, to which all stock – horses, cattle, sheep and goats were tethered.Today there are 1,500 livestock classes, including international, national and regional competitions. Over 2,300 horses enter, including nearly 300 show jumpers, who attract the cream of the international riders every year. Cattle and sheep classes are making a strong recovery now after several years of setbacks with foot and mouth and then bluetongue, bringing current competitor numbers to over 400 cattle and 700 plus sheep.

Top of its classThe show has always been at the forefront of introducing and demonstrating new innovations. In the early days these included acetylene welding machines and electric milking machines. More recent unusual launches include a worm factory, pig racing and electric bikes – not to mention new tractors, cars, roses, vegetables – the list goes on and on. Over the years as the show grew, it changed venues, moving from a one day show at Bartley Cross to two days at Cuffnells Park in Lyndhurst and then finally to its present site at New Park in Brockenhurst in 1955 where it’s now held over three days. In 2007 the Secretary of State awarded the Society a 49 year lease on New Park and extensive conservation, restoration and renovations have since been started with many plans in the pipeline.

Crafty typesNow held over three days, always the last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of July, visitor numbers reach around the 95,000, of which about 70 per cent are locals rather than holiday makers and come largely from Salisbury in the west, Bournemouth in the south, Portsmouth in the east and up around Winchester and Chandler’s Ford down to Southampton. There’s something to entertain everyone: from original classes for horse, cattle and sheep, to active sections showcasing honey and bees, cage birds, rabbits and donkeys, to name a few. There is also a thriving horticultural section that brings Chelsea and Hampton Court winners to the flower show, the national Vegetable Championships are held here and there is a wonderful flower arranging marquee that caters for all levels of expertise in its classes, from the professional to the enthusiastic amateur.Crafts have been a feature for many years, but today’s show is unique in that the majority of stands in the large craft marquees are exhibitors that belong to a craft guild, so they are all truly artisans and provide the most amazing array of different talents.

Get ring-sideOf course in years gone by there was no such thing as a ring. Now there are two main rings plus three smaller rings that all run full programmes during all three days of the show. These include combinations of horse classes (many Horse of the Year Qualifiers), show jumping, carriages and scurry racing and a whole range of entertainments. Highlights this year include: The Devil’s Horsemen,  who put on a magnificent display re-enacting Cossack battle techniques, transforming them into acrobatics on horseback; Bob Hogg and his sheepdog trials, an informative and humourous commentary while the sheepdogs round up a gaggle of geese; the majesty and might of the Heavy Horse Musical Drive, where tons of horse gallop around the ring intricately weaving in and out of each other all to music, really putting your heart in your mouth as one mistake could spell disaster. Other events include an Inter Hunt relay, farming display, dog agility and the fire service animal rescue truck. Talk of the tradesGoing back 90 years there were no such thing as trade stands – now the show has over 600 (a paradise for shopaholics). To make life easier, charity The Fortune Centre of Riding Therapy have a ‘Shop & Drop’ facility so visitors can shop all day knowing there is somewhere to leave purchases, so they can be free to wander around the showground unencumbered. And let’s not forget food. The best of Hampshire producers showcase their goods and have produce used in the cooking demonstrations that go on all day, plus there’s the Food Hall – one of the most popular parts of the showground.  The show’s presence is as vital now as it was in the 1920’s. It continues to be a focal meeting point for farmers, commoners, locals and visitors and a showcase for agriculture, horticulture and many rural businesses to be found the New Forest. The Show provides a source of revenue for many companies and organisations and is now estimated to bring in around �15 million to the local economy every year.

Did you know?• Over 2,000 lunches are served at the show.• 30,000 items of crockery and cutlery used.• 350 kilos of new potatoes are cooked.• 300 stewards volunteer to help.• 71 judges scrutinise everything from bulls to hand knitted jerseys.• Nearly 13,400 pints are pulled by Ringwood Brewery on the showground.• The equivalent of 10 bath tubs of ice are used each day.• 3,000 bottles of water and 2,000 bottles of wine are drunk over the three days.

Want to go?This year’s show takes place from July 27 to 29 from 8.30am to 6.30pm. Tickets cost �12.80 for adults, �4.80 for children or �32 for a family. Visit newforestshow.co.uk to book or tel. 01590 622400 for more details.

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Getting thereThe show takes place in New Park, near Brockenhurst. It is always signposted, but if you’re coming from the north follow the A337 from Lyndhurst towards Brockenhurst. If approaching from the south either take the A35 to Lyndhurst then on to the A337 (as above) or follow the B3055 through New Milton and Sway. Parking is free.Sat nav postcode: SO42 7GH