The ‘Time out’ section of Northern Life regularly provides me with a glimpse of the large number of shows and events that are organised every month. I have visited many agriculture shows and events over the last ten years and the opportunity is there for everyone to capture photographs which record the diverse culture of our countryside way of life.
One of my favourite locations is Wasdale Head in the Lake District. I have been attending the event since 2003 and one year the event had to be cancelled due to flooding.
According to the Wasdale Head website (www.wasdaleheadshow.co.uk) there has been a ‘Shepherds Meet’ at Wasdale Head for over 100 years, little is known of the early years other than that it was originally held in ‘The Chicken Field’ which is the right-hand field just over the old packhorse bridge.
It is believed that the ‘Shepherds Meet’ started off with farmers from Wasdale meeting the farmers from the adjoining valleys of Ennerdale, Buttermere, Borrowdale, Eskdale and possibly Langdale, who walked their Tips (Rams) over to Wasdale Head to trade them, swap them or hire them. This is why the show is held in October each year, tip lousing (letting the rams loose with the ewes) in the valleys being in November so lambs being born in April. In all probability the showing of sheep also started in the early years and possibly also the showing of shepherd’s dogs, hound trailing would also have been introduced in these early years. Over the years the show has developed and there are opportunities to see fell running, wrestling and vintage cars, motorcycles and tractors.
Children’s sports were introduced in the 60s, soon followed by classes for none working dogs as well as the terrier racing. My son Reece has successfully run twice in the junior fell race.
More trade stands started making appearances and what was once a shepherd’s meet became the show it is today with the latest two major changes being the ‘The Craft Barn’ (to give traders somewhere dry to set up their stall in times of inclement weather) and the introduction of the vintage classes. There is also the chance to witness sheep shearing exhibitions.
The show takes place at Wasdale Head and can be reached by car taking the A595 and heading towards Gosforth then Nether Wasdale and follow signs to Wasdale Head alongside Wastwater.
The Wasdale Head Inn offers wonderful homemade food and it is advisable to get to the event early as every year there seem to be more visitors where local Lakeland characters, farmers and their families can meet and discuss their livestock and news.
I visited the Gargrave Show in August and was able to photograph characters and really enjoyed the well organised event.
The agriculture shows across the North West of England and Wales vary greatly in their size and attract hundreds of visitors. The smaller shows are usually run by local committees made up of hard working volunteers who do not wish to see shows die through lack of interest in today’s digital age.
I recently attended Cholmondeley Castle’s ‘Pageant of Power’ and this gives you the chance to photograph vintage cars and motorcycles speeding around a course in the castle grounds. One of the high spots of the weekend was the fly past by the historically famous aeroplane the Vulcan, watched by thousands of visitors attending the event.
At the Yorkshire town of Haworth people come from all over the country gather to celebrate a 40s weekend in May every year.
In the Lancashire seaside town of Lytham St Anne’s the kite flying event provides people with an opportunity to photograph a colourful pastime for many enthusiasts.
As people walk through the wonderful place to take photographs as people take a great pride in dressing in 1940s clothes.
This year I have also visited the world famous Appleby Horse Fair where this year I managed to capture my favourite photograph of the year so far.
Adrian’s Top Tips
Check the shows and events website
Most shows and events have developed their own websites promoting the show and most will include a map showing the location. It is important to know in advance if there any charges for car parking and entrance to the event.
Prepare for any changes in the weather
I always have a pair of walking boots and wellingtons in the boot of the car just in case the British weather turns inclement.
As you may be spending a few hours at the show a folding chair is a useful accessory to take with you.
Remember to take cash
Some smaller shows and events do not have facilities to use debit or credit cards. However some traders selling arts and crafts works may accept cards.
Some of the shepherd’s crooks are for sale and there are usually a selection of wood carvings and paintings which are useful for gifts.
Cameras and lenses
I currently use Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras with a variety of lenses. However a simple camera can be used to get some excellent photographs and using digital equipment means that once home you can review your results on the computer instantly. If you venture onto the beach or near water then it is advisable to take special care of your camera equipment.
Capturing the atmosphere of the event
There are various interesting things happening throughout the show. A there is a limited amount of time I usually walk around the site and take as many photographs as I can then have something to eat then I re-visit to places that looked the most interesting. Characters make the event memorable and if possible try and describe them in one or two photographs.
Using your smart phone
If you do not have a camera then you can always use your mobile phone to take photographs. Hopefully you will get some great shots but the quality is limited.
Dogs should always be kept on a lead
While dogs are most welcome at shows, there is usually a large amount of livestock including prize winning sheep and it is essential that the dogs are always kept on the lead.
Check the Northern Life magazine Time Out for more places to visit
Next time you have a free weekend you should try one of the events or shows featured. You may be very surprised.