Over 65,000 visitors including friends and families, society members and supporters of the South of England Agricultural Society gathered in Ardingly last week to celebrate a magnificent showcase of British agriculture, horticulture, educational farming and countryside activities, plus a range of family entertainment and a passionate display of the countryside at the South of England Show 2018.
Spectacular performances in the Ardingly Ring included headliners, the Atkinson Action Horses led by talented stunt rider Ben Atkinson and his team, whose incredible display of electrifying live action wowed the crowds and provided a backdrop to a range of memorable displays of equestrian daring, top flight Showjumping competitions, spectacular Livestock Parades and visitor participation in the Footpack and Cavalcade Hound Parades.
“We are over the moon with the success of this year’s South of England Show, which is the pinnacle of our year. As a charity, the South of England Show relies on the passion and commitment of over 1,000 volunteers and supporters to put on this terrific spectacle of agricultural excellence and showcase of our stunning countryside. We are also generously supported by many businesses who help us every year to create and deliver such a wonderful experience for town and country people to enjoy. It is also a great platform for dozens of schools, colleges and businesses to engage with the countryside community across the South of England”, said Iain Nicol, CEO of South of England Agricultural Society.
One of the main equestrian highlights this year was the largest Heavy Horse Turnout ever convened at the South of England Show. The Discover the Countryside Zone and Countryside Hub attracted hundreds of students and families from all over the South to learn all about the importance of British farming and our beautiful countryside. This year the Zone featured a range of activities including an abundance of horticulture and wildlife to view and, in some cases, to handle such as ferrets, tortoises, birds of prey, bats and fly-fishing.
The focal point of the newly created Entertainment Zone was the Long Man Brewery Music Stage, where visitors enjoyed fresh music from across the region throughout all three days of the Show. Curated by Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft and the Brighton Festival, designed by contemporary artist, Morag Myerscough, the stage itself become a visual feast for show-goers to admire and enjoy. At intervals throughout Saturday [9 June] fans of TV’s crime fighting pups PAW Patrol, had the incredible opportunity to meet characters Police Pup Chase and Fire Dog Marshall first hand, where many children had photos taken, received hugs and high-fives – some lucky children even joined them in an impromptu dance around the live music stage!
The Entertainment Zone was surrounded by the sumptuous Food Court and offered a wide range of activities including; Segway taster experiences, family fairground, axe throwing, Laser Qube, live action sport demos, immersive flight simulator and the Haywards Heath Rugby activity sessions, which kept families entertained throughout the day.
Amongst competition winners at the Show, Mitchell Bridger from the Camelia Botnar Foundation took first overall place in the Young Craftsman of the Year, for a superbly crafted wooden coffee table with glass top and brass and copper detail. Winner of the National Golden Fleece Competition, sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Woolmen was Graham Langford, with a stunning fleece from a Southdown sheep in the Nepcote Flock at Findon, West Sussex. The annual Award of Honour was presented to John Breach from Kent, for his outstanding commitment to the Top Fruit industry, for having the vision of a collective voice for growers which lead to the formation of the British Independent Fruit Growers Association.
The 2018 South of England Show was described by one visitor as having “heart and soul” as well as delivering an experience and insight into agriculture that will live long in the memory of the thousands of visitors who joined in the celebration.
Said Chairman of the South of England Agricultural Society, Charles Burgoyne: “We look forward to welcoming even more people to enjoy next year’s show; our visitors are so important in helping us develop and continue our charitable work.”