Widecombe Fair 2015

Uncle Tom Cobley and friends - with the old grey mare

Uncle Tom Cobley and friends – with the old grey mare

Once again Widecombe Fair provided a delightful day out. Events began at 9 a.m. and continued throughout the day in the various show rings and marquees, with entertainment continuing in the music/beer tent from 10 a.m. until midnight.

The sheep-shearing is always worth a look. This year the standard was particularly high as it was the final of a competition with heats that had taken place at agricultural shows around the country over the

This back-breaking work isn't just for men.

This back-breaking work isn’t just for men.

preceeding months. Some of the professional shearers are amazing: 400 sheep in a day, each one weighing about 100kg and having to be wrestled into position before being sheared – and all done while bent double. Back-breaking stuff!

New this year was a group of Anglo Saxon re-enactors who set up an encampment and demonstrated various aspects of 10th century life, including the hand-minting of silver coins and tactics for defending against Viking attacks.

Among the display of historic farm machinery was a 1953 Field Marshall tractor exhibited by retired farmer Mary Phillips. Known locally as ‘Mary Tractor’, she has raised many thousands of pounds over the years for the Air Ambulance Service. In 2012, at the age of 72 (sorry, Mary, but I felt compelled to mention it) she drove the Field Marshall from John O’Groats to Land’s End. She raised so much money in sponsorship that in 2013 she did it again, but in the reverse direction, and went to Dunnet Head, about 11 miles north of John O’Groats.

The local foxhound pack put in its usual appearance, but this year it was joined by some of the Devon & Cornwall Minkhound pack. The hounds always make me smile. The younger pack members mill around, very excited by the crowd, but some of the old hands slip away from the pack to work the crowd for bits of pasty and other tasty treats.

The fruit and veg carving also produced smiles and the tug-of-war was ferociously competitive.

But this is definitely a situation where pictures say more than words – so here goes:

Children from Widecombe School enjoying time out.

Children from Widecombe School enjoying time out.

Some of the livestock entries were very cute.

Some of the livestock entries were very cute.

Even cuter

Even cuter

Cute duck with nifty hairstyle

Cute duck with nifty hairstyle

Just open that gate and I'll show you cute

Just open that gate and I’ll show you cute

I'm handsome and I know it

I’m handsome and I know it

Pantomime horse race

Pantomime horse race

Austin Seven drive-by

Austin Seven drive-by

Mary Tractor

Mary Tractor

Bale tossing

Bale tossing

Devon & Cornwall Minkhounds

Devon & Cornwall Minkhounds

Learning the defensive shield wall

Learning the defensive shield wall

Attacking the crowd

Attacking the crowd

Anglo-Saxon encampment

Anglo-Saxon encampment

Banana dachsund

Banana dachsund

Fennel cockerel

Fennel cockerel

Aubergine beetle

Aubergine beetle

Theme: flowers in a tea cup

Theme: flowers in a tea cup

Fancy dress

Fancy dress

Maggie Duffy and Mike Weed

Maggie Duffy and Mike Weed

Dartmoor pony display team

Dartmoor pony display team

A day out at Widecombe Fair.

Dartmoor_WidecombeWidecombe-in-the-Moor is a tiny village that nestles in a hollow in the heart of Dartmoor. It has one church, two pubs, two tea shops, three shops (catering mainly for tourists) and a dozen cottages clustered around the village green. Having said that, the village is bigger than it looks at first glance as dwellings are dotted along the lanes out of the village for some distance. The church (St Pancras) is huge for a village of this size. It is often referred to as the cathedral of the moor. The Church House and Sexton’s House are owned by the National Trust.

If you’ve been following the Tour of Britain you’ll know that in yesterday’s Devon stage the route crossed Dartmoor, passing through Widecombe. Unfortunately, they’d completed that bit before the live television coverage began, so the nation didn’t get to see the riders plunging down the terrifyingly steep lane that drops from the high moorland into the middle of the village.

Widecombe may be small, but it has long been an important agricultural centre. For hundreds of years it has hosted an autumn fair. Farmers on the high moor, who knew that they wouldn’t have enough winter fodder for all their stock, brought their surplus animals to the fair to sell them to farmers from the more lush lowland areas who could fatten them on through the mild Devon winter.

Nowadays, the fair is not about the sale of stock, but more a celebration of Dartmoor life. Animals still play a large part, but they are present either for judging in the show ring or to take part in displays and light-hearted events.

Not all the trade stands were traditional

Not all the trade stands were traditional

This year we went by coach which, apart from dodging traffic jams and avoiding long queues at the park-and-ride, allowed me to sample the beers and ciders on offer without inhibition. I admire coach drivers who manage to cope with our narrow roads, heavy traffic and disorganised passengers while retaining a sense of humour. Our driver happened to know the first lady to get aboard and greeted her with a kiss. He then cheerfully repeated the service for any female passenger who requested it. Before we set off he apologised for the lack of air conditioning and said he’d open the skylights which would let in a draught powerful enough to blow our hair about – “I can see that won’t matter this morning as none of you have bothered.” Continue reading