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‘Iron Man’ Gorilla outside the County Council tent- one of many hand painted gorillas that have just been put on display around Norwich in aid of a local children’s charity.

Yesterday I spent an enjoyable day at the Royal Norfolk Show, the County’s long established ‘agriculture plus’ event that has its own show ground at Easton near Norwich. My main reason for being there was to help man the ‘Master Gardener’ and ‘Master Composter’ stand, offering information and advice about growing food at home and, of course, how to compost effectively.

Before this afternoon stint I was able to stroll around, camera in hand, and soak up the atmosphere on this first of the two day show. Over both days the organisers are expecting around 90,000 people to attend, and they are aiming to ‘break even’ financially. It’s interesting that the show has managed to survive the tough financial times as some other county shows have folded completely due to dwindling attendances, not moving with the times or a lack of facilities to cope with poor weather. No signs of that at Easton, where there was a busy, joyful atmosphere, especially as the weather (until the very end of the afternoon) was warm and sunny.

 

As expected the crowds were a curious mix of ‘old and new’, or perhaps more accurately, different social groups  – the well dressed ‘County Setters’ in their blazers, shirts and ties, flowery hats and summer dresses (most involved in farming in some way), alongside groups of school children and more casually dressed families, teenagers and older couples. A microcosm of the local community in what remains predominantly a rural, agricultural County. Of course an agricultural show wouldn’t be the same without the ranks of huge and intricate machinery, some old, some brand spanking new as well as age-old crafts like horse shoeing and sheep shearing – including an impressive display by the Gressenhall Fam Manager, Richard Dalton, using a set of 100 hundred year old hand cranked clippers!

 

It’s always impressive to see some of the ‘beasts’ entered for the various cattle, horse, pigs and other animal competitions and the efforts put into their grooming and presentation for the judges. On the horticultural front there was an impressive floral display in one marquee, including some delightful orchids, chrysanthemums and looser mixed arrangements of garden plants nicely in flower and leaf. There were also some amazing floristry displays and the usual competitions for different types of home grown fruit and veg- some impressive Gooseberries caught my eye in particular. I managed to come away from the Norwich and Norfolk Horticultrual Society ‘plant tombola’ with a hand full of very nice seed packets, so I now have a supply of purple Pansies, Amaranthus, Morning Glory and Carrots to add to my seed bank!

 

And the varieties of food on offer reinforced the summery feel too – tumblers full of freshly cut fruit, strawberries and cream and of course ice cream a plenty. And not wasting food was one of the key messages of the Norfolk Waste Reduction Team’s display, which also hosted the Master Composter/Gardener stalls, along with some fascinating crabs illustrating the work of the Fisheries Conservation Agency. This was a great draw for the children who continually asked ‘which one is the most dangerous?’- in truth none of them really, as despite their fierce looking claws, the staff were able to pick them up to show the to the crowds without any apparent fear – or nipping!

 

My afternoon was spent talking to show goers about growing their own food and composting. I had some very interesting chats including a teacher from a local High School who teaches horticulture there and sounds to have a splendid school garden, several couples about starting or improving their compost, helping children to make paper pots and sow seeds to take home (along with all the other ‘trophies’ they collected from the stalls at the show), and other show goers clearly just enjoying growing their own food and with whom I shared tales of the late spring, compared potato growth rates and discussed rhubarb diseases.  The next door County Council tent with which we were associated also put on a splendid carousel of displays and activities (including live music) illustrating the array of ways in which the Council serves Norfolk – in fact it (and we) were so good that the whole stand won the Show’s top prize for ‘trade’ stands, so congratulations all round!

So, as you can tell, I had both a very pleasant day out – and one that boosted my energy, interest and optimism for gardening!

Old School Gardener

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