When it comes to weekends, we are always looking for interesting things to do locally. England is a land of seasonal events. In spring farmers open their fields so you can view their bluebells, in winter you can rug up and enjoy a cider by a warm fire at a country pub and in summer you can visit a country fair.
Now I am familiar with the concept of a country fair, but when Pete asked me if I wanted to go and watch terrier racing on the weekend, a country fair didn’t spring to mind. I imagined Jack Russells running full pelt around a field, chasing a rabbit. After a bit of Googling, I realised that their little legs wouldn’t have quite the distance to travel, and that a country fair is a fair deal more than terrier racing.
Markham country fair
We’ve not had what I would call summer weather so far this year, but the day was reasonable, our hiking boots were in the boot and our jackets packed ‘just in case’. We got in the car and set the sat nav for Parham Country House, a quaint estate in the rolling hills of West Sussex. Now Pete has recently started a new job, and has quite a posh work car. Fancy European cars are much more prevalent in the UK than Australia, but there were more than usual in the Parham Country House car park. It was here we started to form the opinion that perhaps West Sussex is the ‘posher’ Sussex.
As we made our way into the fields we were greeted by vintage steam machines. A vintage coffee grinder in particular took Pete’s interest as he pondered the question ‘does it get any more hipster than this?’ As he looked up and saw a nanna knitting, he realised, that no it doesn’t! The front of the venue was set up so people could put their gun dogs to the test. There were a myriad of tests that could be undertaken that involved fetching, jumping and sniffing things out. Some dogs were amazing. Some dogs ran out of the enclosed areas and had to be fetched by their owners! It was really interesting to see all of the work that people had put into training their animals and the bond between dog and owner.
The main arena
We ambled on down to the main arena, where we spent some time watching rescue dogs from Essex performing tricks and working together to show what can be done to train and rehabilitate dogs if you give them a chance. It was lovely to see rescue dogs being so esteemed, rather than pure breds. We have always had pound puppies and they have given us years of love, and I certainly plan on adopting another when we return home. In the crowd, owners and dogs wandered by, sniffing people’s lunch and getting pats from strangers. I’ll admit it made me clucky for a dog, if there is such a thing!
Next up in the main arena were the Devil’s Horsemen, a group of stunt people who have featured in the likes of Game of Thrones. From someone who can barely get on a horse without it bucking her off, I was very impressed with their balance, synchronicity, timing and strength. They were truly amazing.
An aerial display
Now it wouldn’t be a country fair without an aerial display. Since the Shoreham air disaster that happened last year, aircraft are no longer able to fly or do tricks over crowds or roads. We were passengers on the road where the crash happened the day prior to its occurrence and then took that route a few days after coming home from Cornwall. The devastation what quite obvious, so it was pleasing to see changes being put in place to increase safety. Both of us are secret (ok maybe not so secret) plane nerds, so we thoroughly enjoyed the Spitfire show, which made me reminisce about the tiger moth joy flight we booked for my dad’s birthday which made him so dizzy he was ill! A gift that kept on giving!
Ferret racing and more
Having sat down for long enough, we went and explored the other events. There was clay target shooting, stalls to buy your gun supplies at (no gun rack’s Ali), lots of food and my favourite of them all….. ferret racing! Ferret races involve four ferrets running down plastic tubes, being turned around at the end and then running back. I was expected them to shoot down the tunnels, but apparently they’ve wisened up to the fact that there won’t be a rabbit at the end, so it was rather a lack lustre race won by the ferret in the red tube.
After realising we still hadn’t seen any terrier racing, we finally found the terrier ring to realised that it had already taken place in the morning, and all that was left was the showing. After watching a few rounds, we realised we’re more into terrier racing than showing, so it was time to call it a day.
All in all, we had a great day enjoying a local British pastime and once again proved that the best weekends are spent doing what the locals do.
The round up
At the country fair we: Saw ferret racing, watched gun dogs misbehave, saw a hipster coffee grinding machine, watched aerial acrobatics, watched crazy people do stunts on horses, ate a mediocre hog roll, missed the terrier racing, got clucky over dogs, enjoyed aerial acrobatics, saw lots of women in ‘Joules’ and ‘Hunter’ boots, arrived in a car worthy of being parked next to a top of the line Range Rover, spent the weekend like a local.
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