Countryside Live: Verdict from Harrogate showground as event proves to be 'a great place to leave worries behind’

Countryside Live in Harrogate at the weekend brought more than 11,000 through the showground gates where show director Charles Mills (pictured, left) hosted an event which starred shepherdess Amanda Owen, showjumper Geoff Billington and Yorkshire Vet star Peter Wright (all pictured with Mr Mills). Picture: Yorkshire Agricultural Society.
Countryside Live in Harrogate at the weekend brought more than 11,000 through the showground gates where show director Charles Mills (pictured, left) hosted an event which starred shepherdess Amanda Owen, showjumper Geoff Billington and Yorkshire Vet star Peter Wright (all pictured with Mr Mills). Picture: Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

Elsewhere in Harrogate at the weekend another event with a rather more political tone was under way, but organisers of Countryside Live said the show offered a welcome haven from the uncertainty plaguing the industry ahead of a new era.

The distance of the showground from Harrogate Conference Centre, where Nigel Farage was holding a ‘Leave Means Leave’ Brexit rally, is just a few miles but the nature of this event could not have contrasted more starkly.

Charles Mills, show director at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, said: “We can’t alter what’s going to happen in farming, we can prepare our own businesses to think how we can counteract any changes.

“But as one farmer said to me, we come here to forget about the worries and that’s a great thing we are able to do."

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Mr Mills explained that the society can help farmers in many different ways with events like this.

“We are there in a supportive role in however way we want to look at it, and I think more than anything we can be a place to come and talk to farmers and discuss between ourselves.”

The show director, who farms near York, added: “Sometimes a conversation with another farmer can make you feel a lot better.”

In almost Indian Summer conditions, particularly on the Saturday, the showground bustled with families shopping, taking in cookery demonstrations, admiring animals from pigs and sheep to horses and pigeons, and soaking up on-stage entertainment.

Children rolled down the showfield’s embankments in what was almost a throwback to the kind of conditions usually enjoyed at the show’s bigger brother, the Great Yorkshire in July.

Mr Mills said he believed that the high-profile presence of Amanda Owen and Peter Wright as headline guests added something extra to this year’s show.

“Both have been excellent and have brought something different, a different perspective to the countryside and what it means to them, living and working in the countryside.”

In total, 11,150 people paid a visit to the showpiece event over its two days – a more typical attendance after it enjoyed a huge bump in numbers last year when The Yorkshire Vet partnered the occasion in what was a show first.

Organisers said the point of the show was about far more than attracting bigger and bigger crowds.

“We hope they go away with a positive image of food and farming, and having had a good day out,” said Nigel Pulling, the society’s chief executive.

In a message to farmers as the show season ends, the society chief added: “Farming is going to come under more pressure and we are one of the groups of people who people can rely on through that period, whether that’s about putting on the Great Yorkshire Show or helping the farming welfare charities.

“We are there to support them through thick and thin.”

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