Welcome to the 113th Grand Annual Muker Show!
The Beautiful village of Muker, situated in the heart of Swaledale plays host each year to a countryside agricultural show. People come to show off their home grown produce, their Swaledale tups, their sheep dog trailing skills and even their antique tractors.
The Muker show begins at early dawn. The farmers are up tweezing the owd yows eyebrows and the wives putting their prize winning scones in the AGA. All entries are to be in by 0900 hours prompt for the tents to be locked down in to Alcatraz for the militant judging to take place at 1000 hours.
We arrive at the show ground for 10am. A sneaky path at the back allows for a stroll through the stunning Muker meadows. The sheepdog trials are the first thing we stumble upon. Mr Red Hat with his sheepdog Eva waiting patiently at the gate for her debut performance in the novice category.before her showcase moment. It begins with the novices and then progresses to open. The skill demonstrated by dog and handler is immense and it makes for a really exciting spectacle, the tension exhilarating. With only a whistle and a crook, the sheep are coaxed around a show field, highlighting the importance of the dog in sheep farming in Swaledale.
We then wander towards the show fields to see what interesting specimens folk have entered. Young man JC has cleaned up his vintage tractors, passed down through generations on his family farm. Vintage Masey Fergussons and a Fordson.
Next is an expert display of drystone walling, one of the biggest features of the North Yorkshire dales thumbprint. Thought to be an old craft, dying out, these walls feature heavily in Swaledale, stitching the patchwork of countryside together, if built well can last a lifetime and protect our landscape.
Next to the drystone walling demo featured the fascinating art of ropemaking. Quickly moving on….
Next we are on to the Swaledale sheep, an incredibly important aspect of the Swaledale community. Exhibited are the Gimmer lambs (lady young’uns), Gimmer Sheerlings (Ladies after their first mop trim) and the Yows (t’old gits). Then the boys, or the studs as they like to be known! Often bread from pure bloodlines, these bad boys can impregnate up to 10080 Gimmers a day in tupping season! I shan’t complain, these actions are what fills our Waitrose, Sainsburys and our butchers shelves with tasty leg, shoulders and chops! One of these tups only a few years ago sold for £50k. Imagine how many pairs of Hunters you could buy with that? Just kidding, no one wears Hunters anymore. Ever.
I will be honest now, whilst I love a good bit o’ meat, my favourite Ram comes in the form of Purple, served with Fever Tree, a locally produced Yorkshire Dales Gin. Sadly, it’s only half 10. Still too early.
So we wander down the field with all the ‘shops’. I really do enjoy a jolly good spend! Local stall holders selling their prized pieces, sketches, ironmongery, tweed, woodwork, fudge and a sweet stall. After filling my boots with pictures, cards, scarves, hats and fire poker thingies, I managed to buy a bag of sweets big enough to put even a non-diabetic into a coma. A drop in my blood sugar levels at 11:30 is attributed to the fact that I have been up since 4 ‘o’ bleedin clock supervising my husband in the kitchen. Each year ‘The Boys’ (a group of 40-60 year old village men), place an entry into one of the few men only categories. They like to exercise their Y chromosomes and compete with one another to determine who can bake a bun. And Win. The Farmer, The Builder, The Engineer, The Company Director and The Sim Card Sales Man head-to-head. Last year it was decorated cup cakes. My Husband, who’s cooking repertoire consists of microwaved porridge (with frozen blueberries to make it go purple) only went and won! So this year, the pressure is on! We will have to wait until the Supreme Judges have made their call……
Tootling around the show ground, this year, with more attendees than ever before, the atmosphere was incredible. Film crews present for Amanda Owen, The Yorkshire Shepherdess, golden locks flowing in the breeze…. Sorry, Girl Crush. amanda is something of a local celeb, a best-selling author writing about her life as shepherdess in one of the most rural parts of Yorkshire with a 2000 strong flock all whilst raising 9 little humans. I am pretty sure 1 of her 9 children won the fell race under 17’s unsurprisingly. Up at Ravenseat, where they live, in the arse end of nowhere, I can only imagine it’s not just the sheep that have learned to scale the moor.
Another TV explorer, Paul Rose had a team following him. He too entered the men only, undecorated chocolate cake competition, but of course with the added twist that he had baked it half way up Mount Everest in a tent pressure cooker. No Shit.
Following my shopping expedition and my sugar high the announcements were made that the Home Produce tent was now open following intense judging. The first thing I clapped eyes on were 3 giant onions that wouldn’t have looked out of place orbiting a planet. Amazing how things grow so successfully in Swaledale given the weather is predominantly shit.
Dahlia displays bursting with vibrancy, delicate roses snipped from the garden in their prime. 1st 2nd and 3rd Prizes for 3 identical hen’s eggs, walking sticks dressed from wood, all in one piece. Jams, chutneys, sloe gin. Handicrafts, knitting, crochet. Children’s talented art works, handwriting and photography.
ANNOUNCEMENT, baking tent judgements are in. A hop and a dash up the little hill with the Muker Silver Band humming in the background, I shove my way to the front, past Paul’s film crew (almost killing one of them), to see who had won the undecorated, chocolate cake, men-only ‘war’…….. 1st Prize….. a 7-year-old school boy. ‘The Boys’ were wounded.
Following the crushing defeat, we all recognise that the sun is over the yardarm so we head to The Farmers Arms. A pint of Buttertubs for me and a Muker Silver for Mr G. Another. Another. A quick nip back to the show ground to watch the fell races, then one for the road.
We are now looking forward to one of the most delightful parts of the day. The Muker Sliver Band, assemble and congregate in the middle of the village. Established in 1897, with an age range of 15-79, this brass band brings joy to the Dales with its stirring hymns and talented tunes. Honestly, it does get the hips swinging.
Sadly now comes the time for us to depart. I have a party of 14 back at The Cottage for supper and still need to be sober enough to serve it.
Today is a day we look forwards to each year, not just to ogle the steroid induced cabbages and Amanda Owen, but the congregating of a wonderful Yorkshire Dales Community that welcome you with open arms and embrace you with love. For me folks, that’s what its all about.