Situated in Milnthorpe, just south of Kendal, the Westmorland County Show held their 218th event on Thursday 14th September.
The journey to the event was as easy as pie. Travelling from Carlisle, the motorway gantries frequently prompted me in all the right directions, and the show signage continued to guide me as I approached nearer.
Mud Glorious Mud
After parking my car, I followed the trampled track of footprints, where, for a brief moment, I regretted my choice of footwear – but the state of my trainers was soon forgotten once I saw what the day had in store for me.
Greeted with friendly faces, I passed through the entrance towards the Alpaca exhibition area. Whilst I admired all the award winning woolly characters, Linda, from Little Eskrigg Alpacas, revealed the techniques that she uses to produce the handcrafted garments that were on display. The hats, scarves, mittens, and even handbags were all knitted from the high-quality fleece of her own alpacas; all of which can be traced to each animal respectively.
I then wandered over to the Dry Stone Walling Association to discuss their day’s creation with Alison and Michael. The quarry-sourced slate structure comprised a distinct curve, which was unlike any other dry stone wall that I had seen before. Michael described the exact process of building these walls, insisting that a lot of time and effort is required – but fortunately, the organisation provides training courses for the public.
Crafts & Creations
The next stop led me to a number of crafts and floral exhibits, with winners to be seen all around in the Women’s Institute Marquee. Stephen Allen was hard at work here, creating fine feather art; a craft which usually requires 4-6 hours of steady-handed commitment for each piece. Thought to be one of only six artists who produce similar art across the UK, Stephen paints his intricate designs onto swan and pheasant feathers.
Spinning yarn with a folding pedal wheel, Anne Taylor demonstrated the therapeutic craft that she has practised for a few years. Anne knits various items with this yarn, although she admitted that her favourite piece to make is a pair of mittens. Before continuing my tour of the marquee, Anne handed me a knitting pattern for some slipper socks to try out at home.
Food for Thought
There were plenty of trade stalls around the show site, supplying products and services, clothes, and food. The rainbow-coloured collection of curds caught my eye at the Cherry Tree Preserves stall. I must say, I have never seen a Turkish Delight flavoured curd before! Expecting the roof of my mouth to set on fire, I tested my taste buds with an Inferno Cheese sample – but instead the flavours were pleasantly fiery.
In hope for a glimpse of Prince Charles, I walked around the horse and cattle shows amidst a flock of tweed jackets and flat caps, listening to some of the more vocal characters within the show ring. With no Royal in sight, I couldn’t resist the temptation of artisan delights within the Westmorland Food Hall. Cakes, bakes, cheeses, and chocolates surrounded me, which left me hungry for so much more… Lo and behold, I soon found myself scoffing a cinnamon sugared doughnut and slurping a caramel cappuccino, whilst watching some Westmorland Wrestling just around the corner.
Inspiration Leads to Innovation
The Learning for Life marquee was bursting full of outstanding talent and artistic creativity from the local schools. At the Westmorland Horticultural Society stall, I was amazed by the sight of a carrot that was almost the height of a human! Interestingly, the extravagant vegetables were an interactive method to stimulate the minds of children, and teach them about the environment. As I left to explore further, I was bid farewell by a life-size Fantastic Mr. Fox display, created by Dent Primary School.
Lamps Camera Action presented a stand of unique, upcycled, and repurposed lamps inside the Lakeland Pavilion. Inspired by a peculiar makeshift lamp at a Floridian craft fair a few years back, John decided to exploit his electrical experience and inventive eye to build his own. Since then, he has been experimenting with all sorts of items that have all proven to be a hit. The collection of lamps on display were built from old film cameras, fencing masks, and an array of musical instruments. Since 2014, John has produced a total of 655 lamps, all of which are unique and not just intended for the typical hobbyist.
Commitment to The Community
A bunch of figures awaited me at the Ashton House display, where I met the man behind the impressive handicrafts. He voiced the story behind the work that he supplies, explaining how he works alongside various communities to provide work to the unemployed. From birds and butterflies, to ducks and Dachshunds, these rustic figures were in fact handmade in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, and all constructed from recycled metals. Among the reconstructed washing machines and oil drums, Indonesian coffee roots and magnolia had also been chiselled into detailed decorations.
I then spoke with Emilie and Melissa who explained their incredible efforts with Right2Work. By working alongside the South Lakeland Council, Right2Work have managed to divert 120 tonnes of waste from landfill in just one year. The company works towards reclamation, reparation, refurbishment, and recycling of old furniture – all at the same time as providing volunteering opportunities to local individuals who may be disabled or disadvantaged. Right2Work offer the chance to build work experience, grow confidence, and learn new skills and achieve qualifications. I was taken aback to hear such excellent principles, and I can only hope that the company grows further.
I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed my time, and I can imagine the other 30,000 visitors felt just the same. Although, since no one warned me, I shall give a word of advice for all future show-goers: Forget your stilettos or suede shoes and slap on some decent footwear to attend the Westmorland County Show on the 13th September next year! In the meantime, I’ll have a bash at knitting a pair of slipper socks…