Wednesday, May 28, 2014
It’s day one of the Suffolk Show and Lynne Mortimer made an early visit to the showground, yesterday, as the exhibitors geared up for two of the biggest days in Suffolk’s social, farming and family fun calendar.
It’s changed a lot over the years, the Suffolk Show.
When I first visited, aged seven, with my primary school, Sprites Lane in Ipswich, there wasn’t so much to buy. Now, of course, you can get everything from organic nuts to designer frocks. In 1962 we brought packed lunches, and the morning break-time crate of milk came on the bus with us.
At the showground we had an allocated ridge tent and Princess Alexandra passed close by. It was the first time I’d seen a real live Princess too.
Yesterday, the Trinity Park showground was a hive of well-drilled activity. The vans, trucks, lorries and big transporters along with any number of 4x4s were arriving, unloading and leaving in a constant stream of traffic. It will all be happening in reverse on Friday.
The marquees are up and, as always on these occasions I run into Luke Deal from BBC Radio Suffolk, who is also getting the flavour of pre-show excitement.
The flower arrangers haven’t arrived at the Flower Show marquee yet. Last year, I entered the novice section and was commended for my arrangement of allium, delphiniums, green bits and sparkly things. I crossed it off my list of “things to try that I might be good at”. I wasn’t.
But the group creating the big designs are already here.
Yesterday it was damp but that was only the weather; spirits were definitely undampened.
Having attended dozens of Suffolk Shows, the weather is always a consideration. Personally, I like a bit of cloud cover (preferably without rain) because I once came out in heat rash and, on another occasion, had to go to the St John Ambulance station to get a plaster for the blisters on my feet.
But there’s always somewhere to sit. I don’t race around as much these days.
One of my favourite excursions was aboard one of the horse-drawn coaches, leave the showground and go, on convoy, around the back roads, through the nearby village of Nacton. Up aloft, behind the driver, I could look into gardens you can’t normally see from a car.
But yesterday morning, though the whole showground is marked out and ready, there were still vacant spots.
In the cattle stalls, the jerseys and holsteins from CR Cawston were variously standing or lying down. To be honest, most of them were settled deep into the straw stalls... isn’t there a countryside saying about cows lying down meaning rain?
Matthew Cawston, vigilant on toilet duty, was poised with his fork to remove offending cow pats and add them to the rapidly-filling-up wheelbarrow. Everyone has a wheelbarrow at the livestock sheds... except for one woman who calls out: “Charlie, have you got a wheelbarrow?”
Before they are shown, today and tomorrow, the cattle will be washed, clipped and generally spruced. They’re enjoying their pampering, these girls and calves.
At one of the mobile kitchens, showground workers are gathered for breakfast. It’s that time of day. Over in the flower tent, the smell of bacon temporarily overpowers the fabulous fragrance of the sweet peas.
One notable display, this year, is the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies east of England branch which is celebrating its 60th anniversary with a diamond display of spectacular white blooms.
Elsewhere, the team from Easton and Otley College is surrounded by tubs of delphinium, alstroemeria and other fabulous flowers. Floristry lecturer Amanda Hughes says the college displays at the show every year and will this year be commemorating the outbreak of the First World War, 100 years ago this August. They will also be collecting for the Royal British Legion’s annual poppy appeal.
Being the day before the show, I have to imagine the display, which will incorporate hay bales, milk churns and lengths of hessian material to evoke the countryside of 1914.
I meet up with flower show senior steward Stephen Miles... he was enormously supportive last year when I struggled to match the expertise of the other flower arrangers. Yesterday, he was in civvies, today, of course he will be wearing his bowler hat; the traditional headgear of the Suffolk Show stewards. The women stewards also wear hats, but they tend towards picture hats and fascinators. They are all part of the huge army of people who help to make the Show such a success.
Stephen reveals that the Flower Show’s famous cream teas can, for the first time, be accompanied by a glass of prosecco, sparkling wine. He tells me it’s too soon to start queuing.
As I walk past one of the show rings a tannoy blares out a few bars of Bob Dylan, The Times they are a’Changin’ followed by: “Testing... one two.”
The Suffolk Wildlife Trust (SWT) has brought a naked hedgehog, by which I mean a model of a hedgehog with no prickles. Showgoers will be invited to insert the willow spines. Judy Powell, head of education for SWT, says: “We are trying to gather records of hedgehogs to find out what’s happening to them.”
The Trust’s website at www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org is asking people to report sightings of hedgehogs as their numbers have dropped alarmingly in the decade. It is feared up to a third of the UK’s hedgehogs have been lost.
“In Suffolk we believe hedgehogs are just managing to hold on in our towns, but the future of our countryside hedgehogs looks more bleak. This is why Suffolk Wildlife Trust is leading a county-wide call to action, to stand up for hedgehogs, before it is too late,” she says.
As well as hedgehogs the Trust has pond-dipping in the wildlife area and an invertebrates (bug) search. Judy adds: “There will be a hedgehog trail and we are going to have live hedgehogs.”
A “bio-blitz” will see how many species of resident creatures (as opposed to the visiting livestock!) can be found on Trinity Park.
Lucas Hatch, at 12 years old, has become the youngest exhibitor to create a garden for the Show. Under the tutelage of his granddad, Tony, Lucas has designed a garden full of interest for people and garden visitors such as bees.
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