The rain bucketed down on the day of the very first Devon County Show which was held in Victoria Park, Exeter on May 23 and 24, 1872. The show yard became a quagmire and guests attending the inaugural Presidents Lunch did so under umbrellas as water leaked through the marquee roof.
Organisers of this year’s 120th Devon County Show (May 21-23) are of course hoping for sunshine are well prepared should it be wet. Rain or shine, a visit to the Devon County Show comes highly recommended to Hillfield Village guests – it’s a grand day out (about an hours journey either way if you leave early) and you can be back in time for a sundowner on the terrace. A visit to the County show is the perfect opportunity to see what makes Devon tick, and to appreciate just how important agriculture is in the lives of its rural communities.
Once hands are stamped at the gate, it’s into the busy show ground where a sense of competition is palpable – farmers, horse and dog owners, cake makers, flower and vegetable growers have worked for months towards the event – nurturing, grooming, training and refining recipes in the hope of winning much-coveted rosettes. And we’re talking big scale competition – around 600 beef and dairy cattle are shown alongside 1,400 sheep, more than 1,000 horses and hundreds of goats, cavies and poultry.
Aside from competition, there’s plenty of entertainment for all ages from fast and furious sheep shearing through hold-your-breath motocross displays to police dogs demonstrations. For fans of vintage machinery there are shiny steam engines, tractors and ploughs to wonder over and garden lovers will be absorbed by the bountiful flower displays, plants and equipment in the Garden Centre
For a change of pace, step inside the Bees and Honey Marquee to observe the behavior of bees in the hive, taste different types of honey and try some candle rolling. Or settle in to watch the intricacies of lace making, quilting, spinning and weaving in the craft tent.
When it comes to sustenance, stalls selling tasty local food and drinks are plentiful – not forgetting The Contented Cow Marquee for an astounding choice of real ales. In the Pavilion visitors can taste before they buy as well as gather inspiration from daily cookery demonstrations.
On to the serious business of shopping… the County Show has streets and streets of trade stands where it’s possible to buy stuff you simply wouldn’t find on the high street. I make a beeline for cosy alpaca socks, cashmere jumpers and goose down quilted jackets (all at sensible prices), there are tip top quality plants for sale and there’s even a stall selling exquisite jewellery made from freshwater pearls. There’s a surprising choice of pots, pans and kitchen gadgets and of course, everything you could possibly dream of for your pets wellbeing. At the other end of the scale, if it’s a 4×4, a tractor, or even a hot tub you are after, this is the place to come.
The Princess Royal will be guest of honour at this year’s Devon County Show on Thursday 21 May. Calvert Trust Exmoor is the official show charity for 2015.
Devon County Show 21-23 May.