Royal Norfolk Show dazzles in opening day sunshine
The sun beamed down and brought the crowds streaming through the gates on today's opening day of the Royal Norfolk Show.
It was perfect show weather in contrast to last year when the visitors and livestock wallowed in mud and waded through water and stands selling wellies and brollies did a roaring trade.
This time it was ice cream, cold drinks and sun hats that were in demand as tens of thousands of visitors turned out to support and enjoy the county's biggest event.
Many of them were in West Norfolk and included livestock competitors, businesses among more than 700 trade stands, groups and organisations.
Within an hour of the show opening one prestigious award had come to West Norfolk - and with it to The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Grey Partridge Award, which promotes and protects the birds in Norfolk, was awarded to the Sandringham estate and presented to The Queen's agent, Sir Marcus O'Lone and former head gamekeeper David Clark.
Sir Marcus, who retires this week after 20 years at the estate, paid tribute to the support and interest The Queen and the Duke had shown in the conservation scheme.
He said the estate and its gamekeeping team had effectively “thrown the kitchen sink at the project” and without the support of The Queen and the Duke they could not have achieved what they have done.
He also paid tribute to David, who retired recently after 17 years, and his team of keepers. He said: “They have done a tremendous amount to improve things at Sandringham and their greatest achievement was in 2012 when they had 2,350 pairs of grey partridge in the count.”
Sir Marcus has been at Sandringham for 20 years and has worked for The Queen for 24 years, starting at Windsor as deputy ranger.
Talking about his own retirement, Sir Marcus said: “To work for your monarch is great honour, and I have enjoyed that.
"I have worked with the Duke of Edinburgh for most of my time here and he is a remarkable man to work for. He is very personally involved. He is a keen field sportsman, and it is his enthusiasm and commitment to grey partridges has helped David to have the success that we have had.”
Mr Clark also praised the support he has had from Prince Philip and said he had been a driving force in this.
Justin Ripman, senior partner at Mills and Reeve who sponsor the award said this year it had gone to Sandringham without the usual shortlist of contenders in recognition of the estate's contribution to the scheme from day one and, in particular to the part Sir Marcus and Mr Clark had played.
Meanwhile, out on the showground, among farm machinery dealers showing state of the art machinery was Johnson Bros, of Fakenham.
Managing director Mike Stokes, who has been exhibiting at the show for more than 40 years, had more than £750,000 worth of tractors and equipment on show including individual tractors which would sell for around £200,000 a time.
The family company exports all over the world and sells secondhand as well as new machines. “The show helps to raise our profile and gives us a chance to meet and say thank you to our many loyal customers,” he said.
In contrast, Steve Manton was at the show for the first time promoting his business Downham Cider in the busy food hall.
Steve makes about 6000 litres of cider a year in premises at Denver and started the venture in a shed at home five years ago - by accident.
He said: “I saw a Countryfile episode about making apple juice and thought it would be a healthy alternative to sugary orange juice. I made a start but I went to Egypt on holiday and forgot about it. When I got back it had fermented and turned to cider. I took it to the local pub, the landlord liked it and I became Cider Steve.”
Now Steve, a diving instructor by profession, and his wife Sarah supply clients including Denver Mill, the Nip and Growler at the Live and Let Live at Lynn.
The Royal Norfolk prides itself on being a family show and this was certainly evident in one of the sheep sections.
The McKenzie family, who have a smallholding at Pentney, were out in force with three Greyface Dartmoor shearling ewes and a ram.
Mum Briony had done most of the work preparing Peach, Daisy, Winnie and Spartacus for the show ring with her children Jessica, 14, Belle, 10, Sam, eight, and Martha, six, parading them before the judges.
“The sheep are a hobby and we have about 30 at home. This is a rare breed with only about 3000 breeding ewes in the country and they are known for their long wool coats which are used in carpets.
“A lot of washing and grooming has gone on to get here today,” she added.
Heavy horse classes were favourites with the crowds on the first day and West Norfolk entrants included Katie Butters, from Lynn, with her three-year-old black Shire gelding Chorley's Marvellous. Katie, a student veterinary nurse with Mill House Surgery, and the immaculately plaited Scotty finished fifth in their section.
Church Farm, from Stow Bardolph, added to the fun in the countryside area staging the Ham Grand National with their team of racing piglets.
With one of the show themes this year celebrating tourism and the coast, Holkham Hall brought the beach to the showground to the delight of the youngest showgoers.
The hall's education co-ordinator Emily Parker and Monique Nickols were promoting schools visits and the Marine Conservation Society's clean beaches and anti-litter campaigns.