Can it possibly be a year since I was writing about our AGM at Newmarket? It’s a sobering thought but yes, it is indeed. This time it was the turn of the South West Club to host the AGM in Newquay in Cornwall, a name I’ve seen on the signposts many a time when we’ve been at the Royal Cornwall Show (one of the best, if you’ve never been to it).
We arrived on Friday at the Royal Victoria, a splendidly faded, late 1800, typical seaside hotel with warm, helpful and attentive staff, right in the middle of town amid, I must be honest, some pretty tatty looking shops and a food outlets. President Roy and his wife Sheena, Rose Haynes, her partner David and Janet were the only ones there before us and after greetings and a cup of coffee, we were off to a great start when David had us all in stitches as he related a shopping experience. I won’t tell you as I’m not entirely sure it was true but suffice to say it involved sequined thongs - for men.
Throughout the afternoon familiar faces appeared and the buzz of cheerful conversation grew. Some went out to explore the town, though none stayed out for long. The wind was blowing off the sea - very dramatic, perishing cold and staying upright became a real challenge. Newquay has suffered from being a preferred destination for unruly teenage, hen and stag parties but the coastline is delightful, the beaches excellent, especially for surfers. Janet was itching to have a go, but no-one could provide a wet suit for her, a poor excuse by a girl from Scotland.
Some members were having problems with traffic so dinner was held back which gave us time for a second G & T and a catch up with friends, old and new. I was struck last year with the number of new young members and this year was the same. It surely bodes well for the society. Two youngsters, Charlie and Brooke were attending for the first time. They live nearby and are not, as yet, full time farmers. I asked Brooke what her job was. ‘I’m a MOT tester three days a week,’ she said. And the other days? I wondered. ‘Oh’, she said cheerfully, ‘I do metal fabrication with Charlie in the business we’ve started.’ As you do - in between lambing, foot trimming and shearing.
Saturday morning began with the AGM, which once again I did not attend, but on my return everyone sounded very cheerful so I guess it went well and the Minutes will document that part of the weekend.
Cars were shared for the visit to the Treworthal flock, owned by Adrian Rundle, ably assisted by teenage son Richard. Rain rained, hail hit us sideways in the hearty wind and in between the sun shone, and their herd of beautiful South Devons, started in 1820 and the second oldest herd in the world, seemed totally unconcerned. We met the current star, Tulip 23, who was breed champion at the Three Counties, their national show, and one of a long line of champions since they began showing in 1962.
Adrian showed his first Hamps at the Cornwall Show when he was seven and clearly remembers Mike being there. Oh lors! Can this be true? We heard that they had had an extraordinary 17 lambs from six ewes who all thrived in some awful weather - as we all know Hamps will.
click on images below to scroll through Treworthal gallery
Then it was off to the charmingly named village of Quintrell Downs where the South West team had put on a splendid, if somewhat calorific, lunch. Did we care? You bet we didn’t! We wolfed down soup, wonderful Cornish pasties followed by delicious scones with huge bowls of clotted cream and homemade jam. The main topic of conversation on our table was how to pronounce ‘scones’. And then which is the correct order of cream and jam with everyone agreeing that the cream goes on first. Proper job.
A talk and butchery demonstration by master craftsman Viv Harvey was next on our programme. And what a craftsman! He is certainly no ordinary butcher. His knife skills were wonderful - as he showed us legs and shoulders presented in modern cuts. I’ve never seen bones come out so clean. I’ve since learned that among his many achievements he has worked with numerous famous chefs, done presentations for members of the Royal Family and has travelled the world demonstrating and teaching. There was total silence as he worked and talked - we were all riveted and would have happily stayed for another hour or two but it was time for our second visit of the day - to Paul and Tracey Rea and their Bughji flock.
I’m afraid the numbers dropped a bit at this point as the rain and hail were becoming a tad insistent but the hardy ones were rewarded with a warm welcome and a most wonderful view of the Camel Valley. I guess they are used to it but it’s a wonder to me that they get any work done at all.
Then it was back to the hotel for a warm up and dinner with Adrian’s beef to look forward to. And boy, was it good! The beef wasn’t the only thing eagerly anticipated with the results of the Flock Competition eagerly awaited too. Thirty nine flocks took part and Mike and I had enjoyed a marvellous trip around the UK seeing them all. The results have been published elsewhere, but I must just say how lovely it was to hear the cheer that went up when Hazel Hindmarch was declared the overall winner with her Fellrose flock. Tim Hunter concluded the evening by auctioning, in his usual sardonic style, two halves of beautifully butchered lamb and a next season ewe lamb donated by the Derrymans.
Prize giving gallery. Full results appear as separate news item
click on the images below to scroll through the prize giving gallery
Sunday morning saw some making their farewells before the majority set off for a visit to Crediton and the Stourfield flock belonging to Jon Barnard and Justine McPherson, where the welcome and display of the highest quality stock continued. More than 60 members were treated to a tractor and trailer tour (or walk for the fit) of Jon and Justine’s new farm having only moved in just six months previously. They are up and running with novel enterprises to make this small unit work with finishing lambs for the butcher and boxes bred from their Welsh mules and Hampshire crosses, and the first batch of dairy calves were thriving in the shed destined for rose veal. The main Hampshire Down enterprise aspires to be the biggest pure Hamp flock in the country and is well on its way to that end, with good tight-skinned stock on display and ram lambs destined for sale to the commercial shearling trade next year, looking just the part for the job.
click on the images below to scroll through the Stourfield gallery
After yet more food, this time home produced lamb sausages and more scones, the die-hards stayed on to watch Stuart Friswell give a demonstration of ultra sound scanning, whilst others prepared for flights or long car journeys to the north and another excellent weekend drew to a close. Roll on Ireland 2019.