‘I’m a farmer’s daughter’ is one of the first things my mother will say to anyone new she meets. It’s an essential part of her DNA. I don’t think about my farming heritage in quite the same way, although yesterday’s visit to the local farm show did get me thinking.
My great grandparents moved here in 1914 to escape the bombs expected to rain on Suffolk during the First World War. Legend has it they hired a train to bring their animals and farm machinery down south. I can picture them arriving at Alresford Station (our local market town where the ‘Watercress Line’ is now run by steam enthusiasts, having fallen victim to Dr Beeching’s Axe in the 1960s). Cows, sheep, cart horses and six children under the age of eight all running wild. It must have been quite an event!
The Alresford Show had only launched a few years previously in 1908. The list of officers at the first AGM include my great grandparents’ landlord, Lord Ashburton of Northington Grange (our neighbouring English Heritage property) and their predecessor at Abbotstone Farm, a Mr J. S. Gray.
I’ve been coming to the Show since I was child. It’s much bigger than in those days but it also feels very familiar. You know where everything is going to be – the livestock (pigs, cattle, sheep and goats) all in their place. The farm produce, horticultural and craft tents, bees, poultry, show rings and even a cricket ground! All joined together by oodles of trade stands selling everything from slippers and walking sticks to wooden sheds or combine harvesters. Admittedly the tree-climbing, Sheep Show, pig racing and slacklining weren’t around when we were kids, but it’s great to see our son and daughter enjoying these innovations.
Going back to my great grandparents, I took Monty to visit their grave as part of his summer holiday homework about the Victorians. Amazing to think that’s only four generations ago! They lived at Abbotstone and farmed the land around where we now live until James died in 1948. His wife, Helen, moved into a farm cottage and my great uncles John and Tom continued to run the farm. John’s widow still lives in Abbotstone and celebrates her ninetieth birthday later this year.
Mum and I scoured the trophies yesterday but sadly found no mention of our relatives. Still, that doesn’t stop me romanticising their undoubted presence there. Mum certainly remembers her own performances in the ring! She’s just shown me the ‘Coronation glasses’ awarded for her gymkhana efforts in 1953. First place in the bending and potato race, she thinks!
The other thing about Alresford Show is that it heralds a return to school. New classes, uniforms, shoes and pencil cases. I still think early September feels more like a ‘new year’ than 1st January and always treat it as such, complete with resolutions!
Thanks for reading!