Nearly 16,000 visitors flocked to the Spring Garden & Leisure Show at the South of England Showground in Ardingly over the bank holiday weekend.
The South of England Agricultural Society is this year celebrating horticulture and president, Lord Egremont, was delighted to visit the much-anticipated Victorian-style ‘Stumpery’ which took centre stage at the show. Made from uprooted tree roots and planted with mosses, ferns and foxgloves, the impressive stumpery will remain in place for the South of England Show on the June 5, 6 and 7.
Elsewhere there was standing room only in the ‘Gardening Theatre’ as green-fingered enthusiasts quizzed BBC gardening guru, Jean Griffin, and the rest of the expert gardening panel about everything flora related. Trade stands were also very busy throughout the weekend as people rushed to get the best deals on offer and make the most of late spring planting.
Celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, the Arboricultural Association was at the show for the first time along with the Forestry Commission.
Focusing on the message of ‘healthy trees, healthy people’, they were giving advice on all aspects of trees and forestry, including Ash Die Back (Chalara fraxinea), which is now the greatest threat facing trees in the UK since Dutch Elm disease devastated the countryside in the 1970s.
More than 700 dogs from across the region competed in the ever popular Open Dog Show which forms an integral part of the Spring Garden & Leisure Show and hundreds gathered to see who would be crowned Best in Show. The title went to the stunning American Cocker Spaniel, Bananadance Bellissima from Yelsted in Kent and Best Puppy in Show went to the beautiful beagle, Lucxand Leonar from Twickenham in London, qualifying both to compete against the world’s best at Crufts.
The new Paws in the Park ‘Dogstable Course’ was a huge hit with visitors and their dogs who thoroughly enjoyed competing in the fun obstacle course which included a tunnel, gate and jumps - just a taste of what is to come at the main Paws in the Park event at the showground later this month on May 17 and 18.
Clare Hastings, chairman of the Spring Show Committee said: “After the wettest winter on record it really felt as though spring had arrived at the showground over the weekend.
“We were blessed with sunshine and delighted to see so many thousands coming to enjoy a great day out.
“The famous ‘Mini Sheep Show’ team with live sheep shearing on stage proved as popular as ever drawing in huge crowds from across the showground and hundreds of children enjoyed the cattle, sheep, goat and pig workshops in the ‘Access the Countryside’ area and took part in the fluffy duck trail.”
Celebrations were heard from the Alpaca marquee when Houghton Damien won the Huacaya Supreme Championship and Houghton Royal Duchess won Suri Supreme Championship.
Both animals are owned by Mr and Mrs Mick George from Cambridge.
Meon Valley Bonami from Hampshire won Best of British Huacaya and Alpaca Stud Anson from Thakeham, West Sussex won Best of British Suri.
Over 175 of these fascinating quality fleeced camelids from South America competed at the show and were much admired by children and adults alike.
With dozens of breeds of chickens to choose from at the show, the poultry area was a popular destination and those looking for a taste of the good life went to listen to the live talks from vet and poultry expert, Martin Smith and Agricultural Consultant, Andrew Marshall who passed on their top tips about keeping healthy and happy hens.
Also back by popular demand and taking centre stage, literally, as they landed and took off in the main ring, was the Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance crew who were able to offer a very special insight into how they work and gave visitors the opportunity to look over a fully equipped helicopter.
A welcome sunny success for the South of England Agricultural Society and all the volunteers who helped organise the first show of the season and just the start of what is yet to come.
To book advance tickets and for more information on the South of England Show and all other shows and events taking place at the showground, including the new South of England Food and Drink Festival on May 25, call 01444 892700 or visit www.seas.org.uk