Each year at the end of May, many country folk from parishes all over the County and beyond, converge on Bucklesham near Ipswich for the much looked forward to agricultural show. The organizers cater for all tastes. Some of the more senior visitors like to look again at implements and tractors of a bygone era. It reminds them of those dim and distant days when, with no protection from the elements, let alone entertainment by BBC Radio Suffolk in an air conditioned tractor cab, their Fordsons and Cases churned their way on unsprung iron wheels across smallish fields. Pulling a two or even a three furrow plough was the limit of their power. Others go to marvel at the latest monster tractor. Surely now they have reached the zenith of their growth! Anything larger will require Earl Soham street to be widened to enable them pass through! For me the Grand Parade of all the winning livestock is a sight to savour. The Suffolk Punch horses traditionally lead the cavalcade. Every now and then a prize winner proudly led by a familiar figure passes by in a convoy of those ahead and behind. Several once well known breeds of British cattle are now replaced by less well known bovines from across the Channel. For lovers of military displays, this year’s show excelled itself with the unforgettable dash and verve of The Kings Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. (Thomas Hardy enthusiasts will instantly be reminded of Sgt Troy!) I overheard an old soldier exchanging experiences with one of the young troopers who was polishing his harness and boots. They were saying how once the gun battery horses had grown past their useful army lives, generally speaking, it was kinder to put them down than try to rehabilitate them into retirement. They would miss their regimental lives too much.
Whilst no one wanted it really to rain on the two days of the Show, any rain before or after would have been most welcome. Can you remember such a dry period as the last few months? Cracks on the fields are more reminiscent of August time. In fact it is quite amazing how well the crops do look unassisted by an inch or so of rain. There are some very good looking fields of peas, destined for canning or stock feed. I was nevertheless surprised to see, on my way to the show, a field of wheat being irrigated! Oil seed rape, fully in flower now (early June) is giving cause for concern. Bees, so essential for pollination, are suffering parasitic disease, which in turn may well affect the final yield of the crop by causing a poor pod set. Time will soon tell how serious the effect on yields will be.
On the extreme northern edge of Earl Soham Parish there is a field called Black Dames. I was delighted to be told by the farmer to whom it belongs, that a pair of skylarks are frequently seen on the set aside section. One can only hope they will successfully nest and raise some chicks to help reverse what is now a serious decline in their numbers.