Getting ready for the High Forest Show . . .

The posters are up, and the schedule for the show has been in the shops and outlets around the patch for some time. But today is reckoning day, by which time all paperwork for the entries to the show must be handed in, along with the nominal entrance fees. Each exhibit entered costs 25p, and basically, that’s how the show pays for the prizes.

But in terms of financing the whole effort, it could never work on the basis only of entries nowadays. Instead, the show committee stage a variety of fund-raising endeavours (especially the auction earlier in the year) to collect sufficient capital to hold the show; marquees aren’t cheap to hire! In addition, the show is sustained by local sponsors, who enjoy the advertising privilege, and the accolades, as well as the secret satisfaction of helping out in the community.

Norma Spratt has quite a bit more information on the history of the High Forest Show:

“Since Adam was a lad, there has been a High Forest Show sited in various locations in the area including Burnfoot and Cornmill. That was back in the days when livestock was exhibited. But when movement licences became restrictive, it was impossible to carry on with that sort of show. The mantle was taken up by a group of local farmers some forty years ago, lead by chairman Cyril Forsythe and with the Philipson family. These efforts  became the foundation of the show as it is today, displaying the efforts of the local community in the Beaumont Hall (now a swimming pool). The current committee evolved after the last outbreak of foot and mouth when Cyril et al retired.

Some events have been added, like the dog show and more recently the food marquee with its cookery demonstrations and stalls bearing Northumbrian goodies for sale. Around the square other stalls may be located with crafts, tombola, and BBQ. ‘Splat the rat’ is having a year off at this show but his spot has been taken by the ‘ultimate lemon.’  The blacksmith will have the forge fired up and with provide demonstrations of his skill during the afternoon. The main marquee stages all the work of the exhibitors and it never ceases to amaze, especially in the flower and vegetable classes, just what can be produced at this altitude and with the vagaries of the weather. The aim is to have something for everyone to enjoy.

The committee meets every month beginning in February when the fund raising is planned. Without permanent premises a considerable amount of finance is needed for the hire of marquees and with thanks to the generosity of local sponsors the funding gets a huge boost. Events are held on three occasions throughout the year running up to the show, all adding income to the coffers, and now and again there’s a promise auction. The last one was supported by a great number of Allendale folk so the decision was taken to “open” the show to all and it was great to see new faces and new names on the trophies.

The High Forest Show at Allenheads is a friendly small event that brings the community together whether through exhibiting, sharing resources, and general help staging and clearing up afterwards. More volunteers, though, would be very welcome!”

Thanks for that introduction, Norma! Sue Wardle has also sent along details of the two cookery demonstrations to be held during the afternoon in the ‘Food Tent,’ which we’ll include in on the Saturday diary entry, the day of the show.

So now we ourselves here in Sparty Lea, for whom this show is our show after all, have to decide what we might have ready to enter this year, and be quick about it; after today any entries will not be considered. Let me think: of our vegetables, we might have a few good potatoes, a few French beans, maybe a courgette or two. Our broccoli this year has probably not made it to show-time (I didn’t know that all the little broccoli buds opened out into masses of cute yellow flowers!), but the spears were great while they lasted. We could proffer any number of kale leaves though, but they’re not really in the judging. Our exotic ‘oca’ tubers will only be good for harvesting by December, but the plants look to have done very well. Oh yes, we’ve got a couple of beetroots that might be worth entering.

I saved those beetroots back especially in anticipation of the show, when Carrie was cooking a wonderful salmon-and-beetroot gratin. It was a lovely dish, even with only a quarter of the recommended amount of beetroot! With my gardening luck, those potential specimens will be riven by slugs by show day, and then I’ll never hear the end of it.

I keep thinking: what four lovely examples of garden produce might we be able to enter on a seed tray to be in the running for the Sparty Lea Cup? Maybe I could dig up a specimen ‘oca’ just for the exotic-ness. Maybe a nice bunch of grapes (our white and red vines are especially prolific this year, now that we’ve shut the blackbirds out of the gap in the polytunnel). Burgundy beetroot, yellow (or purple) French beans, deep green courgettes, flashy red-and-white oca. What a splash of colour it could be. It all depends on what we can gather together for the day, really.

This year, for the first time since we planted the hedgerows, we’ve got sloe berries growing on the blackthorn bushes! So we might be able to enter the fruit-gin or fruit-vodka category next year. But sadly the wine categories have been eliminated, just when our own loganberry wine is at its finest, ready to bottle in appropriately anonymous bottles. Never mind.

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