I went to the Royal Welsh Show for the first time on Monday. I’ve been to a couple of shows in the UK before: the Bath and West show many years ago when we lived over there, the Nantwich show about three years ago but this time I went with other women from the SE women in farming group and we went to see a few other things as well.
We travelled over by ferry which I was a bit apprehensive about. One of the advantages of moving back to Ireland, as far as I was concerned, was that I’d never have to travel on that ferry again and here I was, signing up to travel on it twice in three days. We were blessed with the weather though and both crossings were so smooth I didn’t even feel queasy.
We first visited Kate Beavan’s farm and country school. Kate and Jim became well known when they were the first to be televised for Lambing Live on BBC in 2009. As well as running a sheep and beef farm, they offer a number of courses which include cider making, sheep shearing, lambing matters and more. As well as having a tour, and taking part in a “guess the poo” game, we got to eat lots of welsh cakes and sausage rolls, drink very tasty cider and hear all about the Beavan story as Welsh farmers diversifying within the current climate. In many ways, the Beavans have diversified for years, Jim’s mother running a B&B for 35 years, but they are doing even more since 2009. The 17th century barn, which is used for teaching as well as lambing in the spring, was beautiful.
If you’d like to hear more about Kate, do listen to her interview on the Rock and Roll farming podcast with Will Evans, it will really give you a flavour of her personality and farm.
We arrived at the Royal Welsh Show bright and early on a fabulously sunny morning. There was so much I loved about this show, I wished we could go back for a second day.
So what made it so great? Here’s a list:
- It’s on a permanent site so that meant the facilities were superb. The asphalt paths were wide so even if it had rained, ground conditions would be fairly clean. There were lots of toilets – in buildings which means lots of space, proper cubicles and hot water. Not a horrible portaloo in sight. These things matter. There’s nothing as bad as feeling you can’t drink much as you’re trying to prevent another visit to a portaloo. Well, one thing is worse and that’s trying to manoeuvre your way into a portaloo without touching anything on your way in or out. The site itself was lovely, well laid out, easy to find your way around, grassy banks used for informal seating, even a bandstand that made it feel like a village green.
- Cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry and more – impeccably groomed with lots of space within the rings.
- The pride in everything Welsh. Lots of people were speaking their native language. There was a large bookshop stocking books by Welsh authors, published by Welsh publishers, and translated into Welsh. They did have some English translations and I bought a couple. The show committee and farmers had a lot of pride in putting on a good show and it was lovely.
- There was a good number of shops/stands without being overwhelming. There was the occasional “magic knives and vegetable graters” type stand but most were relevant to Wales and/or farming. All were attractively displayed and there was plenty of room. They didn’t give the vibe that they had been squished in to make the show more money that’s for sure. There were a few large tents with many small businesses inside such as a craft tent, a food tent, a “not on the high street” tent and of course, a horticulture tent with lots of impressive floral and vegetable displays.
- The shows in the main arena were really impressive. Lorenzo with his six white and six black horses was incredible. I had tears in my eyes watching it, it was such a wonderful performance.
— SE Women in Farming (@SEWomenFarming) July 25, 2017
- He was performing twice each day and people could either sit in the Grand Stand or stand around the edges, or watch from the grassy hill on one side. I’d have loved to have sat there for the entire afternoon but there was lots of other things to see and do.
- I loved the “Sheeptacular”. A 15 minute demonstration showcasing 20 rams from different breeds, what made it really cool was each ram walked up a tiered platform while we listened to a brief talk on that breed. It was followed by a sheep shearing demonstration. A simple yet effective talk on 20 Welsh sheep breeds.
- We also got to meet the Farming Connect women in agriculture group and they treated us to lunch as we chatted. They set up around the same time as the SE Women in Farming and have managed to secure funding for their first year. It was interesting comparing notes on women in farming, Brexit, funding, weather, milk prices, even mother-in-laws!
- Getting to meet tweeps in person is great too, Suzanna and I met up with Will Evans and his family.
- We were warmly welcomed into the International Pavilion and offered refreshments. They really treated us well.
It was back to the hotel for a meal and lots of chat afterwards. We all sat in the bar afterwards telling farm stories with much raucous laughter.
We visited the Botanic Gardens the next morning. As I wandered around the lakes and the main buildings, the emotions I experienced when there before came back. In 2013, I had been there for a conference and first heard about crowd funding.
I remember sitting in the sunshine chatting to James Moxey about it, filled with excitement and apprehension. I have to admit it gave me a good feeling knowing the crowdfunding had worked and I now have 3 books out there.
I visited one building I hadn’t seen before – the apothecary hall. I love collecting old bottles so enjoyed seeing all the green and blue bottles. It was interesting to see a packet of buscopan, eczema ointment (wonder if it was any good) and smelling salts amongst many others.
And then it was to the ferry and home. We had such a great time, we’re already intending to go back next year – and this time we’ll be spending two days at the show!
Our next SE Women in Farming meeting is on 5th September when Suzanna Crampton will be sharing her tips on how to use social media to promote your business. We started the group last November if I remember correctly, launching in January, and holding a meeting every 5 or 6 weeks. In a way, we’re following the example of the “women in business” groups set up and funded by the county LEOs, which were set up following research that women setting up their own businesses benefited from training, networking and mentoring and a much higher percentage of businesses flourished as a result. Our aims include enabling women to share knowledge, network, learn, and grow in confidence. We did that in abundance last week and had a great time too. We will have a website live soon but for now, do follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find out what is going on.