Only two weeks to go. There’s an eerie calm about Wadebridge right now, as if people know what’s coming and they know how to deal with it.
The show was not always held at Wadebridge. This one was at Bude in 1939.
It’s been very different since the by-pass was built, 23 years ago, but the energy that flows from the Royal Cornwall Show still brings a buzz to the town and surrounding villages.
Those days before the by-pass, when southbound traffic would queue for hours to reach the old bridge, and then crawl up Molesworth Street, are hard to recall with much fondness. Perhaps the pace of life really was slower then, but it never seemed that way to me – the back-end of a tractor, and a lung full of diesel fumes, were always just very frustrating.
Now the traffic management is, frankly, superb. There are still delays, but they are measured in minutes, rather than hours. And even if the weather is poor, there is enough going on under canvass to guarantee a splendid time for all.
The event has moved so smoothly into the digital age of the 21st century that my first encounters with the show, nearly 40 years ago, almost seem like they must have happened to someone else. Nowadays if you can’t make it for all three days, the show’s website gives you plenty of information about what’s happening.
I’ve always enjoyed the animal exhibitions, particularly the rare breeds’ section. Perhaps it’s a subconscious nostalgic yearning for those early agricultural experiences of my childhood, when the beasts of the farmyard seemed naturally to come in all shapes and sizes – before modern farming became the expertly engineered precise science that so conveniently fills supermarket shelves today.
It’s interesting that children’s toy farm animals nearly always celebrate breeds which you are less likely to see on the majority of farms now: Gloucester Old Spot pigs, Cream Legbar chickens, Highland cows – none is actually threatened with extinction, but neither are they particularly well-suited to the kind of hyper-productivity needed to keep food prices low.
I was pleased to see that the RCS sheep entry this year has already set a new record, continuing the trend of recent years. This year’s entry of 1,294 represents a healthy increase of 44 over the previous high, set in 2012, when 1,250 entries were received.
I’m currently wrestling with my conscience, and bank account, over whether to add a goat (or two?) to my smallholding, and the Royal Cornwall Show is the ideal place for me to find out more. There will be more goats than ever at Wadebridge this year.
If I remember correctly, goat’s milk is whiter than the more creamy cow’s milk – which at some future date would allow me to suggest the headline “A Whiter Shade Of Pail” – but really I’m just looking for a low-tech way to keep the grass down in the orchard.
Do I have the time to ensure that everything would be right in the animal welfare department? Sadly, the answer is probably not. I’m a reporter, not a farmer, and my small-scale dabblings are only that: dabblings, not driven by economic necessity.
But for a few days, at least, I will soon be able to once more stroll around the Royal Cornwall Show and soak up the atmosphere, talk to lots of people who know more than I do, and dream on.