Today we went to the Surrey County Show. We managed to leave the house quite early, in order to miss the crowds. We last went in 2010 (we were in Italy last year) and I ran with the pigs. This year, things were a bit more sedate.
This year I heard that if you bought your tickets online, you’d not only make big savings but you’d also not have to queue up when you arrived at Stoke Park. They were so right on both counts! There was a great saving and we just walked straight in. It couldn’t have been easier. Except perhaps being lowered by helicopter into the main arena.
Anyway, we wandered up between the cows and sheep where the early heats were being judged. A very knowledgeable (in the ways of farm animals) man was wandering around giving us all the inside dope on what to look for in a prize winning Jacob sheep or Hereford bull. He had the perfect voice for it – all very Surrey, doncha’ know.
The Hereford above was absolutely massive. I’ve never seen so much beef in one place. And he didn’t really want to walk around. The guy leading him had a tremendously difficult time. Not for the faint hearted. If I was going to lead a cow around, I’d settle for a Dexter. Mind you, this one wasn’t happy about being led around the ring either. She decided to just sit down, embarrassing the young handler something rotten.
From the cows. bulls and sheep, we made our way (via a few shops) to the goats. The wonderful goats. The miniature ones, the weird shaggy ones, the ones in coats, the plain evil looking ones. They were all there. I was in heaven. Mind you, in the enclosed space, they tended to hang about at the back of their pens. I’m pretty sure they didn’t like all the people wanting to reach in and pat them. Either that or the weird bleating coming from the one all alone at the back of the tent, may have put them all a bit on edge.
I have looked into goat breeds and think this is an Anglo Nubian. Most pronounced is the Roman nose and the floppy ears. I really like the colouring and think she looks very noble. I reckon she’d have a good cheese in her too.
From the goats we made our slow and steady way over to the main arena where we hoped to see some horse action. On the way we found a shop selling hats. Actually there are always many, many shops selling hats at county shows. They are always the sort of hats you need to wear around the farm. As well as hats, they also sell whole outfits for the gentleman and gentlewoman farmer.
The special thing about the hat shop we found was that I found a hat that I both liked and that fitted. This is quite rare. The last hat that fitted really well was the one I bought in Katoomba that I’m still convinced was stolen by the BT engineer. Anyway, this new hat will replace the Katoomba one.
After wrestling with dozens of other vain customers for a go at the single, mini-mirror, I bought the hat and we continued on our way. We found seats up the back and settled in to watch the awards ceremony for best lady sitting side saddle competition. This is she on her lap of honour. You can say what you like about her but I think riding side saddle is pretty stupid. She is supposed to look quite Victorian and I think is awarded points for it.
The competition is actually called “Side Saddle Concours d’Elegance” and is a recognised class. I’m rather glad they allow the dressing up thing at Surrey because it would be pretty dull without it…and even stupider.
Fortunately we didn’t have to sit through the actual competing bit and it was soon time for someone to be dispatched off to find tea while they set up for the show jumping. I joined a very long queue.. It was then that the woman in front of me noticed that the burger van next to the coffee van also sold tea and coffee and had the benefit of no customers. She left the long queue. I joined her. Tea was achieved very quickly.
Back in the grand stand, I couldn’t find Mirinda. She’d moved. At the top of the stand, the seats were good but the wind was whistling through the opening behind. She’d moved down enough rows to avoid any nasty, similar intrusions.
The crowds were starting to build as we watched the riders taking a wander around the course, working out where the horse would need to jump and how far between the jumps. It was just the same as Mirinda used to do at agility. It always helps to have a test run of a new course…actually they’re all new courses since they change for every event.
Possibly it would have been a good idea for the organisers to test run the seats before erecting them as well. Three rows in front of us there was a sudden commotion as a few seats decided to stop working as seats and begin life as individual slippery dips. People were falling everywhere. It was devastating.
It was also quite funny because after the first people fell off and moved, other groups would see a lovely set of seats all together in the front row and make a bee line for them only to end up on the ground. Which reminds me of another funny incident.
The top of the grand stand was made of canvas and a few gallons of water had managed to pool in the edges. At one stage, and for reasons known only to the water itself, it suddenly fell onto the heads of the people in the front row. The water, not the roof. They leapt up, indignant and embarrassed. The rest of us thought it was part of the entertainment and just laughed.
When it was time for the showjumping to start, the grandstand was pretty much full to capacity (except for the broken seats and the wet seats). Clearly, watching the horses leaping over fences is a big favourite at the show. We were very glad we’d managed to grab our seats nice and early.
We were then taken through the rules by the announcer. Suffice to say it was extremely complicated and I switched off fairly quickly after he started. I wasn’t really that bothered, just wanting to watch and enjoy. And this is exactly what we did.
Sadly, I kept trying to take the perfect shot of a horse jumping over the fence in front of us but each time I was beaten by the blur. This is about the best one.
We sat through the entire event, thoroughly enjoying it all. We even went ‘Oooo’ at the right times (when a pole falls off) and went hushed when a horse ploughed into one of the jumps. We were one of the horsey in crowd, I can tell you.
After the jumping had stopped we went for another wander, taking in the floral displays and voting for our favourites (a depiction of archery for me and show jumping for Mirinda) and then through the honey tent, avoiding any killer bees along the way.
The crowds were now pretty thick and unpleasant and the numbers had also increased so we decided to call it a morning and head for home. The massive black cloud about to cover Stoke Park may also have had something to do with it.
It was another lovely visit to our county show, thoroughly enjoyed by us both.
For anyone who would like to see some great photographs of the Jubilee flotilla on the Thames yesterday, these ones were taken by a person who was on one of the boats. The guy who took the photos is a fellow Blipper.