I recently attended the Duncombe Park Country Fair, which is the first time I have done so for a number of years.

I don’t think the show has fully recovered from the cancellations due to Covid in 2020 and 2021 but, to my untrained eye (and from the queues of vehicles waiting to get out), it looked pretty well attended.

There were people from every stratum of society, from the very well-heeled to the not so well-heeled and one thing I particularly noticed was the number of pet dogs. Pooches of every shape, size and variety seemed to be there, with many relishing the chance to take their owners for a walk. Were there so many because owners of dogs are more likely to attend a country show, I wondered, or was it down to the "lockdown factor" of people buying pet dogs to ease the boredom of being confined to their homes?

For nothing more than curiosity, you might like to know that (according to research carried out in 2021) about 3.2 million households acquired a new pet after the start of the pandemic, and those figures were reflected in a surge of demand for pet-related products from the supermarkets which led to a shortage of some brands of pet food. About five per cent of those impulse purchases resulted in said pets being abandoned or given up after their new owners realised it was far more challenging than they expected.

Darlington and Stockton Times: You could test your own dog’s skills at ‘fetch’ at the Duncombe Park Country Fair

Dogs aside, there was lots to see and do at the show, with local tradespeople and artisan producers promoting and selling their wares. Of course, the purpose of these events is to celebrate country life in all its forms, showcasing the food, skills, crafts and agriculture from our part of the world. The traditional baked goods were a particular draw for us, and we couldn’t resist the handmade Scotch eggs for ourselves, and a Yorkshire curd tart for my mum (and having sampled both, I can report that they were flipping delicious!).

Visitors could also try their hands at activities such as clay pigeon shooting, paintball and archery and, having had a go at the latter, I can boast that I hit the bullseye on my first arrow (I’m not going to admit it was luck, although for some reason I don’t feel the need to mention where the other five arrows ended up). You could also have a go at testing your own dog’s skills at agility. The "prey" (a ball) was thrown to the end of a 50-metre course of straw bale jumps. The dog was timed as it fetched the prey and returned. Some performed absolutely brilliantly, flying effortlessly over the jumps to grab the prey before racing back and obediently dropping the ball at their proud owner’s feet. Others were just rubbish.

There were plenty of hopeful human competitors taking part in the various events, most of which involved horses and gundogs, and it was a treat to see how talented they were, to see these traditional skills and pastimes being celebrated and appreciated by the crowd. Having said that, the Mini Grand National was an eye-opener, and almost as chaotic as the real thing, with a posse of children atop their ponies haring around the ring at breakneck speed. They had to negotiate jumps made of straw bales and, just like the real thing, more than one of them came a cropper. Thankfully, the pliable bones of these bright young things meant those who were unseated soon got back up again.

There are hundreds of country shows like this taking place throughout spring and summer (details from the Yorkshire Agricultural Society website), and the one at Duncombe Park has been established since 1982. They have been proven to give the local economy a much-needed boost thanks to an increase in sales of goods and patronage of the hospitality and tourism sectors. These shows are what you might call the warm-up acts to the more famous county shows, which are similar, but far bigger events. The biggest and, arguably, the most well-known is, of course, the Great Yorkshire Show, which takes place over four days in Harrogate every July. With around 140,000 visitors, 8,500 animals and the occasional royal in attendance, it is quite the celebration.

Do you have any memories of a favourite country show?

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