I've wanted to go to a British agricultural show for years as I have seen snippets of them on the TV and they look so interesting. So I was really pleased when my brother told me that the Devon County Show in Exeter was on during the time that we would be in England. Apparently this is only a small show compared to the more famous large ones like the Bath and West, but they must be enormous because I thought the showground at Exeter was huge!
There was so much to see and do here that two days would have been better. One day to walk around all the stalls, exhibits and animals, and another to watch the displays in the various show rings. Even so, one would miss things as there were about four different events going on at any one time in various different rings!
We caught up with some friends who now live in Devon when we first arrived, which was great. After that we mooched around all day trying to fit in as much as possible.
I only took photos with my phone as I wasn't going to lug a camera around with me all day.
First, before I show you the many photos that I took, I want to tell you about something very brave that I did. At this showground is the new Devon Eye. It cost more than £1 million pounds to build and erect! However I am scared of heights and get vertigo so I look at these things and say "never in a million years!". And that is how I felt until we were close up to it and I watched some people going round, then thought that maybe it wasn't really so scary after all. I half jokingly said to my OH and bro "Who fancies going on the Eye then?" to which their responses were a firm "No way". Well after a while of looking at it and umming and ahhing, I thought that really I could cope if I had family to hold my hand, so asked them to come with me. My brother said "These things aren't safe" and my hubby just said "Waste of money". So in a complete moment of madness I decided to go up there ON MY OWN!!! My heart was pounding as I walked up to buy a ticket; when the man asked me if it was just the one ticket I started babbling incoherently about how I was terrified of heights and none of my family would come with me and because I was terrified of heights and suffer from vertigo that's exactly WHY I was going on it. He smiled and said the ride was gentle! And so I got on.....
...... and had an absolute ball! It was amazing, I felt totally safe and secure and loved seeing the views over the showgrounds and the countryside beyond. Halfway up I remembered to take some photos then remembered my phone has a selfie function so struggled with that (hence the squinting serious look on my face), then we were back round to the bottom all too soon. Luckily we got two revolutions for our money (£5) so the second time I could just enjoy the views. I got off absolutely exhilarated and could happily have gone up there again. I now feel that I could do the London Eye and every time I feel fearful of something I tell myself "Mandy, you CAN do it". That's not going to work for everything but it has given me an enormous boost and I still feel really chuffed about it. :-)
Back to the show - there were many horsey events going on in various rings, from in hand showing to heavy horses to show jumping.
I think this was the ridden Mountain and Moorland ponies class.
The tent with poultry and rabbits - I took these photos because they are Randy, Dirk and Rachel!
The tent with locally produced products:
Oh My. Flapjacks. And there was Cake galore too. Yes I did partake. :-)
Amazing cheese in perfect blocks. One of those blocks of cheddar would have been good to bring home to France - could have lasted a while!
This was amazing - a cheese 'wedding cake'. Available to buy at an exhorbitant price.
Locally produced cider.
There was a tent full of alpacas.
I wanted to watch the heavy horse show but it was sad that there were not many entrants so in some of the classes there were only two competitors! But at least that meant the loser actually got a 2nd class rosette.
This next huge marquee contained the floral art exhibition/competition down one end. I absolutely adored the floral art - there were themes and it was so interesting to see how the exhibitors interpreted these themes. My OH found it extremely boring though but luckily for him there was a cafe in the middle of the marquee so he spent his time there!
The theme for this next one was something like the bottom of the sea. I really like this one.
This was my overall favourite - I forget what the theme was and it only won 2nd prize, but I loved the textures and the amazing bright flowers which contrast against the bark.
All the while we were serenaded by gentle music - if you look hard you can see a very bored tall man in sunglasses standing at the back in the middle. I however had only just started looking at the florals... :-)
There were a few plant displays too but the cacti caught my eye as they are so stunning in bloom.
This was labelled as a Shepherd's Hut and a little garden had been made all around it - I thought it was all delightful.
Finally we found the cattle - here are some bulls awaiting their wash and brush up. We didn't see any cattle or agricultural animals on show though. I would have liked that but with one day you can't see it all!
In the giant hall where the cows were resting before or after their showing event. These are Guernseys. I always get annoyed at how bony the poor milking cows are, but my brother who has a farming background says it's normal. Hmmmmm. I don't like to see it. Look at the difference between the bulls' rumps and theirs.
We watched a display of motorcycle acrobatics; this was after the Shetland Grand National. Both were great fun but the ponies were so fast I didn't bother trying to take photos of them. I have however managed to get a man and motorbike flying through the air here!
The final event of the day in the main ring was the top class of show jumping. The horse flesh here was of the rather expensive top class kind. In the foreground is the practice ring and the jumps were very high!
We never did find the real ale tent which didn't appear to be where it was marked on the map, unless it had a hidden entrance somewhere. A bit disappointing for the boys. We also completely missed the Bees and Honey tent, having meant to go back and visit later! We didn't see the displays of Falconry although I did pass the birds, and I'd have liked to see the Police Dog display too. We missed the pigs too, shame as I love pigs. Oh so much to see and do! I did have fun mooching about the stalls selling crafts and the like though, and bought myself a little sort of stained glass butterfly ornament, which you put a tea light behind to show off the pretty glass.
I hope I get a chance to go back one day. This was really the highlight of my trip to England and the best fun I've had in years!