‘Sparkling’ daughter inspires new Suffolk Show contest

Charlotte Cobbald at the Suffolk Show with one of her winning Texel sheep.

Charlotte Cobbald at the Suffolk Show with one of her winning Texel sheep. - Credit: Archant

A new competition is set to be launched at this year’s Suffolk Show is memory of a “sparkling” Young Farmer who inspired many of her fellow members.

Stephen Cobbald, a former president of the Suffolk Agricultural Association, has established the contest in memory of his daughter, Charlotte, who tragically died last summer, aged 17.

The Young Farmers’ Club (YFC) Stockpersons’ Competition is open to all young farmers groups in Suffolk, north Essex and Norfolk borders, and is a tribute to Charlotte’s world of farming, showing her sheep and sheepdogs and immersing herself in the activities of the young farmers’ clubs.

“It is the kind of competition that Charlotte herself would have loved to have entered and combines all her passions,” said Stephen, who farms at Acton, near Long Melford.

The competition comprises three stages testing knowledge of showing, stock judging, livestock knowledge and stock handling. Young Farmers will hold preliminary rounds within their clubs to decide which member represents them in the competition to be held from 8.30am on Thursday, May 28.

Winners will be announced at the show’s Grand Parade, with the winning club receivings £300 and the runner-up £150. The judge is Dan Phipps, leading stockman for Darley Stud at Newmarket and holder of the National Sheep Association’s Young Shepherd of the Year award.

“Charlotte was a sparkling, intelligent girl with an attractive and engaging personality who enjoyed her short life to the full. She was a very involved pupil at Ipswich High School, enjoying great success in class and on the sports field and time spent with her many friends,” said Stephen.

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“One of Charlotte’s hobbies was Stowmarket and Gipping Valley young farmers’ club where she held a number of positions within the clubs. Charlotte loved the county rally, the camp outs, the stock judging competitions and the club socials and helping with the juniors. As well as the YFC Charlotte loved her time spent on the family farm with her Texel flock and the commercial sheep. Charlotte was a natural with stock.

“She was known for her skills at handling sheep. From a very early age she showed a great ability to handle and judge livestock and had been asked to judge Texels in Wales with me,” he said.

“Charlotte was probably the youngest person to win a championship at the Suffolk Show with a Suffolk sheep and a Texel sheep. Her death is an absolute tragedy, but her mother Hilde and I want to use her name to help young people as a memorial. I am determined that through her flock of 60 sheep, which we have given to Easton & Otley College, and this competition we are giving other young people an opportunity to enjoy living and farming in Suffolk as Charlotte did.”

Although Charlotte will be missed by many, she would wish all who enter the competition to have a great time and learn a lot from the experience.

Charlotte loved the Suffolk Show and always called the show “My Suffolk Show”, he said.

Tory Lugsden, county organiser for Suffolk Young Farmers, said members really wanted to celebrate what was great about Charlotte. “She was amazing, and such a lovely girl. It’s heart-breaking and we loved her,” she said. “Charlotte’s passing was a tragic loss. She was so active, a real ‘sparkler’, lovely to look at, a real leader with the juniors who looked up to her. It is very raw for them.

“The YFC to Charlotte was where she felt herself; to her it was a place to be and feel safe. She showed that you can be confident being a farmer and a girl. It is acceptable. She was inspirational and showed that farming is cool. In young farmers we give young people a place to shine through our activities and competitions and try to make their ambitions recognisable and cool.

“Mental health, loneliness and young people in rural isolation are all issues we face.”

Suffolk Young Farmer clubs will be showing how much fun it is to be a young farmer and give visitors a chance to participate in all their free-to-have-a-go activities in the Farm Discovery Zone at the Suffolk Show on May 27 and 28 at Trinity Park.

Stacking bales into sculptures, digger challenges, fence erecting, flower arranging games, demonstrations and a chance to design your own sticker are included in the space.

“We’ll be demonstrating that YFC is more than farming and really making a noise through the interactive activities for everyone to try. Each of the 11 county clubs, which represent 260 members, will all have a session. We’ll be showing how cool it is to be a farmer,” said Tory.