‘better to step away and give time it’s chance.
I took the long loop through the New Forest, headed northeast. Little yellow signs dotted the verge, reminders of ‘The New Forest Show’. Unknown: A car boot sale, I guessed. But traffic thickened from outside Brockenhurst, suggesting something more.
Much more, actually, as we pulled into a sea of parked cars, the fields beyond filled with tents and noise.
The New Forest and Hampshire County Show is the largest agricultural show in England, 89 years old and attracting over 100,000 visitors each year. Admission is a steep £20 per head, but the fair is massive, varied, and lively: allow the full day to see it properly.
It reminds me a lot of the Puyallup, the Washington State County Fair. There are livestock tents (cows, goats, pigs, rabbits….) with ribbons given for best breeding and grooming.
Products from flower arranging and baking competitions are arrayed much as the jars of preserves and sewn quilts are in the US, courtesy of the Women’s Institute (I couldn’t find any 4H representation, though).
The themed tents cover Garden, Health, Food, Church. Inside, there were rows of little booths, each with a crowded monocultures of crafts. They might command more traffic and price if they looked more artisan and bespoke, less mass-produced.
The central arenas features the horse shows. In the US, this would mean competitions and racing. In Hampshire, it means dressage. Horse-drawn wagons trace interlaced patterns, eights and ovals; equestrian jumping thumps rhythmically over the gates.
The big attraction was the Horse Guards of the Royal Household Cavalry, resplendent in red tunics and gold helmets. I didn’t really appreciate their significance at first: they are something of a legend, and hadn’t attended this show in 20 years. Everyone (wezen included) was excited, hopping and waving.
They are such a draw that the show literally overflowed the next day, with visitors being turned away for the first time.
It was a sunny, warm day with milling crowds, easy to walk the aisles and linger on a bench. I had soft spots for the baby goats, the Ringwood beer, the Australian barker at the Sheep Show, and the nostalgia that I felt for the whole harvest-fair vibe.