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Suffolk Show: Middleditch family celebrates sheep inter-breed treble

16:22 29 May 2014

Harry Middleton with the inter-breed champion  Hampshire Down ram.

Harry Middleton with the inter-breed champion Hampshire Down ram.

Hours after finishing at university, Harry Middleditch was back home to help prepare his family’s award-winning sheep for day two of the Suffolk Show.

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And his cross-country trip from Cirencester, where he has been studying agriculture, back to Belchamp St Paul, near Sudbury, proved well and truly worthwhile today when he picked up three inter-breed titles in little more than half an hour.

With their farm being essentially an arable operation, the sheep are largely a hobby for the Middleditch family, which besides Harry consists of his parents, Denise and David, and sisters Jessica and Alice.

Harry missed the first day of the show − he arrived home at around 8pm on Wednesday − when the rest of the team, led by mum Denise, secured a fifth consecutive Hampshire Down breed championship and also won the Other Down Breeds title with an Oxford Down.

Although the champion Oxford Down, a three-shear ewe, nominally belongs to Harry, it was shown by Denise during the inter-breed judging today, with Harry showing their Hampshire Down champion, a home-bred shearling ram, which was clearly the stronger of their two contenders.

Harry, modestly, put this down to the ram tending to be “bit more difficult” in the ring than the ewe, but Denise offered a different perspective, saying: “Harry shows everying much better than me.”

Either way, the Hampshire Down ram caught the eye of the judge, Andrew Walton, from Alnwick, in Northumberland, who, after lengthy deliberation, handed the family their fourth inter-breed championship in five years.

Harry then took over with the Oxford Down ewe which, in quick succession, claimed both the title for minority breeds and the award for breeds on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) Watchlist.

“I only got back home at about eight o’clock last night, but it was well worth it,” Harry said. “I am over the moon. It could not have been a better morning.”

“People must be beginning to hate us,” Denise added.

The champion Hamshire Down ram was sired by Podehall Guinness out of a home-bred ewe. The family agreed a sale at the show yesterday, although they plan to take the ram to a number of other shows this year, including the Great Yorkshire, before finally parting with him.

The Oxford Down ewe is also home bred. She had a pair of lambs this year, one of which won its class on day one of the show and is being retained, along with its sibling.

In all, the family have 35 Hampshire Down ewes, 10 Oxford Downs and, their latest addition, a couple of Southdowns which were Jessica’s choice of acquisition and were shown for her by Alice on day one.

Mr Walton said there were a lot of very good breed champions on show but the Hampshire Down ram had stood out.

“When I let him loose, he owned the ring and ran around as if he was the boss,” he said. “He really looked the part; he was spot on.”

Reserve for the inter-breed championship was a Beltex ram, winner of the Continental Breeds title on day one, owned by R & R Sharp from Eaton, near Grantham, in Lincolnshire.

Mr Walton added: “It was a very correct sheep of its type and also had loads of presence and character.”

Reserve for the minority breeds title was a Lleyn ram, winner of the Other Native Breeds championship on day one and owned by Nick Whitehead from Old Newton, near Stowmarket, while reserve spot for the RBST Watchlist award went to a Teeswater shearling ewe, winner of the Other Longwood Breeds title, owned by Fiona Byatt, from Burton End, near Stansted Mountfitchet.

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