Yesterday was my hubby’s birthday, and we decided to have a day out to celebrate. We decided we’d visit Knightshayes Court, our favourite local National Trust house, which is a neo-Gothic extravaganza built by a Victorian entrepreneur on the fortunes of what my hubby calls the Knicker Elastic Factory – in fact the vista from the main rooms of the house has as its focal point the distant factory chimneys! We were driving along towards Exeter when we both spotted to signs to the Devon County Show and said together, “Shall we go there instead?”
It’s been many years since I’ve been to the County Show and I absolutely love it, and all shows like this. It was a beautiful warm, sunny spring day, ideally suited for a day in the open, with so much to see and do, so we quickly turned off, and began a really fun day out.
It is primarily an agricultural show, with different breeds of farm animals being judged, but there are many other activities going on as well, like demonstrations of dog training, equine sports, and usually a display by the Red Arrows Motorcycle team or some other spectacular group to wow the crowd. There are several main arenas where these events take place, and surrounding these, the showground is criss-crossed with wide, paved paths lined with stalls and stands of every description, selling, displaying and advertising all kinds of goods, products and services, and there are large tents with craft exhibitions and flower shows, and small animal competitions. There are bouncy castles and other kids’ attractions, and food stalls and live music, and there’s far too much to see in one day! The event is on for about four days every May, in the same venue as the other shows I’ve been to, which I have posted about on this blog, such as the South West Disability Show, and the various craft shows.
Here is a general view of one of the areas with stands.
We sat and watched the show jumping for a while, and as always, I much admired the beautiful horses, so supremely proportioned, powerful and beautiful, and marvelled yet again at the perfect partnership between these magnificent creatures and their riders, the combination achieving so much more than either could do alone. At the show, of course, both riders and horses are turned out to their very best appearance, with smart riding clothes, and glossy coats respectively.
There was a tent containing examples of the blacksmith’s art. The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths is one of England’s ancient guilds, and it’s lovely to think of the continuity of this historic craft from the earliest times to our modern era, where functionality has been combined with beauty in a way that reflects our times. I find it unbelievable that from such a seemingly unyielding and hard substance as wrought iron, such fluid forms and organic beauty can be produced – they look soft to the touch!
During the show, blacksmiths’ competitions take place, and alongside the display tent was an array of temporary forges where the smiths could be seen at work.
We then moved on to some more equestrian delights, this time the carriage driving. I have never seen this outside the shows, and what a delight it is! Dressed as from a bygone age, the elegantly turned out drivers sit straight-backed in their carriages and again, the wonderful teamwork between human and horse comes into play as the beautiful creatures obey the lightest touch of the whip. Each competitor had to fulfil certain manoeuvres, including backing and turning, trotting and standing, and they came right past where we were standing. It was hard to photograph them because they were one minute far off (zoom lens time) and the next minute right on top of us, and moving quite fast! I belatedly discovered the video feature on my digital camera and managed to capture a few seconds’ worth!
I could have watched them all day.
There was a stand exhibiting egg-craft, which I always enjoy looking at – I’ve seen it at the two craft shows I went to last year.
Then we discovered this wonderfully coloured stand. The gentleman came from the Midlands, but his wife is from Russia, and they import Russian dolls and other items such as boxes and spoons. They know the artist, who paints traditional dolls as well as having a more modern take – with political leaders (both in and out of favour!), British royalty, and even the Simpsons!!
This was such a colourful display with the printed fabric behind.
There are many different animals on display at the show, and we came across these two little donkeys enjoying a bag of hay.
As well as four-legged animals, there are also plenty of birds, including this collection from a local owl sanctuary. These birds of prey are all tame, having been hand-reared, so they know no other life. The man told us that the barn owl on his shoulder was a bit shy and felt safe there; sometimes he had his face so close to the man that he looked as if he was whispering sweet nothings into his ear!
I zoomed in on the beautiful plumage of this extraordinary native British bird. Anyone who is fortunate enough to see them in the wild – and they are getting pretty rare these days because all the old barns have been converted into houses – they could be forgiven for thinking they are pure white; they fly by in absolute silence like a ghost on the wing, but close up, in daylight, you can see that they are very beautifully marked with subtle greys and browns. Their feathers are so soft that they make absolutely no sound when they fly, so the mice and voles that form their diet have no inkling of the danger until it’s too late!
This Harris Hawk is a very powerful and substantial bird of prey – just look at those talons…
From one extreme to the other, we then moved on to the poultry section and found these delightful ducklings.
We saw displays of vehicles of every kind, including motorbikes and these gorgeous Morgan cars. My dad told me that he saved up for a Morgan once, but then decided to spend the money on an engagement ring instead – good thing he did, or I would not be here to tell the tale!
Of course, being an agricultural show, there was no shortage of agricultural machinery. We are always amused by this, because the ones we see around us are never as clean as this!!
Finally we saw this stand full of baskets of every description.
At this point, unfortunately my wheelchair battery decided to die on me, and in manual mode, the wheelchair is extremely hard work to self-propel, because the motors and battery weigh a great deal. The back is low, as are the fold-down push-handles, so it’s a strain for my hubby to push me. At this point we decided to call it a day, and then my own personal battery failed too and any remaining energy drained away leaving me like a limp dish rag! I was sad not to be able to see the Alpacas and the Angora rabbits, and the small animals tent - always fun seeing the guinea pigs! I was also hoping to see the prize bulls, rams and pigs, all scrubbed and groomed for the occasion, being led around by men in spotless white coats, but it wasn't to be; we made it back to the entrance OK and my hubby fetched the car.
We were going to my parents’ for a meal in the evening, but it was still too early to go there, so we found a quiet place to park the car and both had a sleep! I really had overdone it during the day, so was really over-tired all evening which was a shame, but all in all it was a brilliant day out.
You can see the whole set of photos on my Photobucket album:
By the way, my hubby simply loved his mechanical card which I blogged about recently. He’s taking it round showing it to everyone today!
Next stop, Silver Wedding!