There’s something magical about a good country show. Marquees lined with trestle tables groaning under the weight of mouth-watering produce, fluttering rosettes pinned to pens, well-scrubbed cattle gleaming in the sun, and the sounds of the farmyard mingling with a pleasant hum of chatter from visitors and exhibitors.
I’ve attended countless agricultural shows down the years, most often as a local newspaper reporter, gathering results, taking photographs of sheep and earnestly asking dairy farmers if their prize Friesian is a “good milker”.
In doing so, I’ve grown to respect the dedication and hard work that goes into every one of these shows – from the organisers to the exhibitors. And, having photographed many champion sheep, cattle and horses, I am getting better at spotting a potential winner too – but I must admit that the process of judging remains a mystery.
It is fascinating watching the badge-bearing judges as they size up the competing livestock, checking their legs, assessing their fleece or coat, staring them straight in the face, and sending them around the ring to watch how they move.
Fascinating, yet baffling. Many of Yorkshire’s show judges and stewards have decades of experience behind them, and their knowledge helps ensure a fair result.
One such expert is Matt Mason, chief sheep steward at Kilnsey Show which is held every August in the shadow of Kilnsey Crag, Wharfedale. I was fascinated to learn some of the secrets of his craft and I’m sure you will be too.
Hopefully we can inspire you to visit an agricultural show before the season is over, if you’ve not yet done so. They really are a terrific celebration of our working countryside.
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I’ll be the judge of that
Matt Mason, chief sheep steward at Kilnsey Show, shares some trade secrets
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