Wiltshire Looms Large

PUBLISHED: 11:41 25 May 2012 | UPDATED: 21:25 20 February 2013

Wiltshire Looms Large

Wiltshire Looms Large

As the Royal Bath & West Show starts, Rebecca Pow takes a look at some of the county's contenders

Wiltshire Looms Large

As the Royal Bath & West Show starts, Rebecca Pow takes a look at some of the countys contenders

Behind field gates, stable doors and in fields across the county, preparations have been underway for months to prepare animals (and their owners) for competing in the biggest regional event in the farming calendar and Britains only 4-day agricultural show, the Royal Bath & West.

An intriguing mix of top-class exhibitors coming from every corner of Wiltshire are hoping that their livestock will be the next Top Models of 2012, whether it be a traditional Tamworth pig, a diminutive Dexter cow or a stupendously large shire horse!

Dinky Dexters

For the Park family, who run a small holding in Charlton, near Malmesbury, the Royal Bath & West is very much a family affair, with Mum Mel showing their Dexter cattle, Dad Adrian often a judge, both sons involved in showing animals for their own family or for friends, and son Matt also competing in the apprentice horse shoeing competitions, something Adrian, a full-time farrier also used to take part in. Between them all they have won a string of prizes over the years, including the overall Dexter championship three times with one of Mels favourite cows, Charlmoor Sarah, who went on to become the top Dexter cow in the country.

Its not all about the winning though as Mel is quick to point out. "As long as we are judged properly, and everythings healthy and we have a good time, I dont mind how we do. Weve been going to the Bath & West since 199. Weve always gone there since as long as I can remember. One of the things we like is its a community. And weve been fortunate with our cattle, we have a very jolly time. When you stop enjoying yourself, then its time to give up. I am very lucky because I have a really good team around me because it is a lot of hard work."

In fact Mel seems to collect followers who become, like her, devoted to the Dexter cause. By way of a reward for their time helping with the herd and the intensive show schedule she takes part in (exhibiting at an incredible 14 shows between June and September), Mel has generously given Dexter heifers to some of her helpers at Moor Farm, which they run alongside Mels own Charlmoor herd. One, Charlmoor Harriet, has turned out to be a real star, becoming Reserve Champion at the Royal Bath & West last year, following in the hoof steps of her Dexter grandmother, who was herself a Great Champion.

Dexters are the Dinky toys of the cow world. A fully grown cow barely comes to Mels shoulder, so they are ideal for people with a small acerage, like the Parks, who have just 30 acres. If well-handled, they are quiet and well-behaved, but success in showing takes much hard work and endeavour.

"We started halter training early in the year and I have a cattle hairdrier which we use initially to blow the dust out of their coats so they arent so itchy, and to get them used to it. Then, about three days before the show, we bring them in, wash them and rub them down, blow-dry them and put them into stalls. Once we get to the show, n we settle them in, wash and scrub them again, groom them, do their nose, eyes and feet with hoof dressing. And I mix up my secret recipe to use to make their coats shine. It really works. They look so glamorous!"

Stunning Shires

One imagines a step ladder might be required to scrub up a shire horse for showing, and Monty and Max have to be decorated and plaited up as well to meet the exacting demands of the shows heavy horse classes where they are regularly entered. Its not just the horses that are judged either; the harness, dray and even the horsemen have to be polished to within an inch of their lives too.

For Monty and Max, a trip to the Bath & West is an exciting diversion from their usual busy schedule making daily deliveries of beer around Devizes on behalf of their employer, Wadworth brewery. They are the only shire horses left delivering in this way in the country and give Wadworth & Co the best carbon hoof print in the nation!

Tricia Hurle works at Wadworth & Co, and being a keen horsewoman herself (she rides shire horses for a pastime) has become the in-house agent to the horses, who are something of celebs in the local area. "We do the local shows because its a good showcase for the shire horses. They are such magnificent animals and people are quite in awe of them. They get a lot of attention and they love it. Because they are working horses they dont normally trot, and when they are in the show ring they have to trot and they really enjoy it they show off! Surprisingly for such huge animals theyve got a big turn of speed."

Theyll be up against other heavies: Clydesdales, Belgian Drafts, Percherons. Horse, groom and driver will be judged on both turnout and performance. Tricia is optimistic that they will do well at the Bath & West as the marvellous Monty and Max have recently excelled themselves, coming 2nd and 3rd in their respective classes at the Shire Horse Society annual spring show where they were up against shires from all over the country.

Top Tamworths

Not far away, Caroline Wheatley Hubbard has been taking her best pedigree Tamworth pigs and Bath & West Show hopefuls out for walks. "We take them for walks every day, practising guiding them with sticks and boards as they dont have halters. The young ones need to learn but they pick it up quickly. They are very intelligent animals.

"Last year we were Reserve Interbreed Champion, thats the second best pig of all pigs! And our boar was Champion Coloured Young Boar, so he went on to the final of the Pig of the Year Show. Its very unusual for Tamworths to go so far because theyre a very old-fashioned breed and it tends to be the more modern breeds that get to the final."

Boyton Farms Berkswell herd of Tamworths are the oldest herd of pedigree pigs in the country, and are at the heart of a thriving family business growing produce on the mixed farm, which is located near Warminster, in order to supply the award-winning Ginger Piggery Farm Shop. The pigs free-range on grass and in woodland, and have gained an enviable reputation for the taste and texture of their meat. The show is a great shop window for the pigs.

"Its good publicity, good to win and also good to be able to look at your stock against other peoples. Also the atmosphere is lovely, everyone is really friendly and its great to see the other pig owners," explains Caroline.

As show time draws near, the star pigs get at good wash and brush-up, and in case there are any blemishes left they are lightly coated with wood dust just before they go into the ring. "They gleam like beech leaves," laughs Caroline. "If you dont believe me, come and see them at the Show!"

thegingerpiggery.co.uk; boytonfarm.co.uk

Royal Bath & West Show, Shepton Mallet takes place 30 May - 2 June.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Wiltshire Magazine