When Countryside Live first started fourteen years ago, it was a very modest affair, with cattle and sheep and a few trade stands over the weekend, explains Show Director Charles Mills. ‘As we began to understand what the public wanted, we adapted and added, and the show has gone from strength to strength. Now, as well as cattle and sheep, the show features a range of other animals, food, crafts and rural skills, as well as a host of family-friendly events and activities.’
Countryside Live takes place over the weekend of the 22 and 23 October at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate, and was established by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society to complement the Great Yorkshire Show. ‘It is a smaller but no less exciting version of the Great Yorkshire Show,’ explains Charles. ‘One of the main principles of the Society is to explain and promote farming and country life to the general public. Yorkshire is such a wonderful and diverse county and we want to spread that message to as many people as possible, which is why Countryside Live exists.’
Countryside Live is primarily an agricultural show, with much of its focus on the competitive classes for livestock and sheep. ‘We also have classes for horses, pigeons and poultry,’ explains Charles. A new addition for this year is competitive classes for alpaca, which are becoming a common sight in fields across Britain. ‘Not only will visitors be able to meet these incredible animals, they’ll also have the opportunity to buy some of the luxurious garments that are made from their wool,’ he adds.
As well as livestock and animals, Countryside Live showcases some of the rural crafts and skills that are still practised in Yorkshire, such as farriery – the shoeing of horses, which is an ancient craft that is believed to date back to Roman times – at The Forge. On the Sunday there is the Grand Final of the Young Shepherd of the Year, organised by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust featuring young shepherds battling it out for championship titles.
With some of the most fertile land in Britain, Yorkshire boasts a rich larder of top-quality produce, much of which graces the menus of the finest restaurants in the county and beyond. Food lovers will find dozens of stands in the exhibition hall featuring the very best artisan food and drink, alongside a range of other products, from handmade jewellery to designer clothing. Countryside Live is also a showcase for the county’s honey producers, who go head to head in a range of competitive classes.
Yorkshire has a long tradition of apple-growing, which is being celebrated at Countryside Live in their Apple Show. ‘Friday 21 October is National Apple Day, so we are hosting an apple show which will feature over 100 varieties of Yorkshire-grown apples,’ explains Charles. ‘Another new event for this year is the Cookery Theatre, which will feature some of Yorkshire’s finest chefs, as well as cheese and beef tasting experiences.’ With such an array of food-related treats, it is fitting that Countryside Live’s special guest this year is BBC MasterChef’s Greg Wallace.
As with all the best agricultural shows, Countryside Live will be packed with events and activities that will appeal to kids. ‘Alongside donkey rides, a climbing wall, archery, birds of prey demonstrations and ferret racing, we have Create and Explore – a range of hands-on activities for children in the exhibition hall,’ says Charles. ‘There’s also our hugely popular Talented Showjumper competition and Flyball demonstrations, in which teams of dogs race over a course of hurdles and jumps – it’s going to be a lot of fun.’
As a farmer at Appleton Roebuck, near York, Charles Mills understands the ups and downs of modern farming. For example, last winter’s horrendous floods were particularly challenging for Yorkshire’s farmers. So to be involved in an event like Countryside Live, which promotes positive stories about the Yorkshire countryside is a real pleasure. ‘This is my second year as Show Director and it’s a huge honour – it’s the best job in Yorkshire.’