Here comes the judge
|It's official! And yes, that IS a spider at the window - it caught a wasp just after I took this selfie|
I entered a new world at the weekend, courtesy of my friend Sally who invited me to judge the flower classes at Foxham Horse Show. After I said I'd love to, a little bit of jiggery-pokery ensued and I swiftly achieved promotion to fruit, veg AND flower classes.
I was totally unaware this event existed until Sally volunteered as show secretary this year. Not only does it exist, it celebrated its 30th birthday on Saturday. The horse show is the main raison d'etre with around 300 horses attending this year's competitions of all kinds. The produce classes were added a couple of years ago as a fun way of involving more people.
Foxham is a small village around 5 miles north of Chippenham. It's a pleasant drive which follows Maud Heath's Causeway for quite a way and goes through the hamlet of Kellaways. This is the source for the naming of the Kellaways Formation, a particular series of sands and clays from the Jurassic period.* It shows even a tiny dot on the map can achieve world recognition.
* = the Type Section which is used to define this rock formation is currently an issue at Junction 17 of the M4 near Chippenham as the geological Site of Special Scientific Interest is close to the building work currently underway.
Here's a typical scene from the huge field where the show's held. There are lots of competitors on their mounts, either awaiting their turn or watching the progress of their fellow competitors or friends and family. Everyone is immaculately turned out, even the tiny tots who can only just reach the stirrups.
I was asked if I ride and I had to confess to only the lightest of experience. The last time was three years ago in Oregon, when Victoria and I had a great time on Nancy's ranch**, who bred award winning horses specifically for Western-style riding - completely different to English style.
** = how come neither of us has blogged about that?!
As well as 9 show rings, there were all kinds of trade stands and tents to explore, with the cafe, barbecue and bar particularly well attended. Just out of shot is the Produce and Craft tent which was my main scene of action on the day. I deliberately kept well away whilst the staging and public viewing was in progress, apart from popping in to say hello to Richard Tucker, who'd organised this part of the show.
Instead I had a brilliant time taking in the show's atmosphere, particularly the Shetland Pony Grand National, hastily renamed to the Shetland Pony Performance Team at the insistence of one of the team's organisers, who had the correct name proudly emblazoned on the back of their outfit.
I learned any youngster with a registered shetland pony can apply to be a team member, much to the disappointment of my young ringside neighbour. Her good looking grey shetland pony caught the team's eye, only for her mum to say unfortunately theirs isn't registered.
Soon it was time to head tentwards and survey my domain for the next couple of hours. The produce section is designed to be a fun part of the show and all but one of the 25 classes had something waiting for me to judge. Even though these classes are for fun, I still took the wording on the schedule as my guide. It's amazing how many people hadn't read the specifics for the class(es) they'd entered.
There was some exquisite staging, particularly in the herb, floral, foliage and vegetable collection classes. I found the latter hardest to judge as no two trugs/trays of produce were the same. Whilst I wasn't judging to RHS standard, I kept their key headings in mind: condition, uniformity, colour, shape and size.
Freshness was considered, particularly in the runner bean and rhubarb classes where I snapped one of the pieces presented for evaluation. Beetroots were sliced to see if there were any rings inside. In the event of a tie, the quality of presentation became a factor. The exception to the rule was the longest runner bean class, where my trusty tape measure ruled the winner.
|Me in full flow - photo courtesy of Sally, spot the clipboard! You can just see organiser Richard Tucker over my shoulder|
Once I'd made the First, Second and Highly Commended awards (where applicable), I had a look at the Art and Craft classes***, then retired to the other side of the tent for a delicious packed lunch and a chat with some of the other judges and organisers. I was particularly fascinated by the judging of the Egg class. Here in the event of a tie, one egg is cracked open to evaluate freshness.
I was also surprised at the self-restraint of the cake judge, who only sampled a tiny morsel in her deliberations. I was reminded of how different it was and how much of the winning cake remained when I showed my fruit and vegetables at Chippenham's show.
*** = much more difficult to judge in my opinion. There was some amazing quilt work, full of birds and bullrushes, which I wish I'd photographed to show you.
A quick treat of some yummy Lovington's ice cream (rhubarb and custard flavour since you're asking), then a final turn around the showground revealed the dog classes in full flow, complete with a smiley dog looking up to greet me. It's a fitting reflection of the warm welcome I received on the day and the relaxed feel to a wonderful village show.