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Looking ahead to this year’s Derbyshire County Show

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 June 2017

Chairman Edward Hicklin at a previous show

Chairman Edward Hicklin at a previous show

as supplied

As we look forward to this year’s Derbyshire County Show, Sarah Newton talks to Derbyshire Agricultural and Horticultral Society Chairman Edward Hicklin

The tractor parade at a previous show The tractor parade at a previous show

It takes 12 months to plan, involves hundreds of exhibitors, attracts thousands of visitors and is run by 300 volunteers, but for Edward Hicklin, organising the popular Derbyshire County Show and Food Fayre feels like riding a giant rollercoaster.

‘You spend 364 days ratcheting the cars up a slope,’ says Edward, who is chairman of the Derbyshire Agricultural and Horticultural Society, ‘and then on the day itself, you’re over the top of the first climb and speeding down the other side. You are so busy and there is so much going on around you that it feels like you’re just hanging on while you travel through all the loops and curves, until everything comes to a halt at the end of the day. I’m very proud to be the chairman and the show has been a big part of my life since I was eight years old, but it is a huge task for our committee to organise the show and I only feel that I can relax when it’s all over and I know that everyone has enjoyed themselves.’

Last year, as on 136 previous occasions, the rollercoaster climbed smoothly to the apex of the first peak but with just days to go before traders and visitors started arriving, Edward was forced to pull the emergency brake and call the whole thing off. A rainy June had taken its toll, leaving the venue, the Elvaston Showground, waterlogged and in danger of becoming a mud-bath.

‘The show has run since 1860 and didn’t take place during some years because of the war or foot and mouth disease, but the decisions to cancel those events were taken months in advance,’ Edward says. ‘Last year while we were putting the marquees up the Monday before the show weekend, the showground was cutting up very badly. I called the Society’s committee together down to the site and, standing there with water gathering around our feet, we took a vote to decide whether or not we should call the event off.

This year's show will take place at Locko Hall This year's show will take place at Locko Hall

‘They had, famously, run the show in 1981 when people were up to their ankles in mud but we decided that it would not be in our interests to continue. There was a safety issue at stake and also the long-term condition of the site itself, which would have taken years to recover if we’d gone ahead. It was an incredibly difficult decision to take but when we told everyone they were very understanding and supportive, and the vast majority have agreed to take part in this year’s show.’

The Elvaston Showground, which the committee leases from its owner, Tarmac, has been given another year off to recover and the show is being held at Locko Park, near Spondon.

It was while looking for an alternative venue that the committee was approached by Locko Park, the private estate which is home to Lucy and David Palmer. They offered the show the opportunity to use the field in front of the main house, which as well as being a private home, hosts weddings and corporate functions.

‘We are very grateful to Lucy and David and consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be invited to host the show at Locko Park,’ says Edward. ‘Not only is it 300 acres of beautiful, rolling parkland but it’s right on Derby’s doorstep, which makes it easy for people to enjoy a rural day out.’

The heavy horse turnout in a previous year The heavy horse turnout in a previous year

This year, the JC Balls’ Dancing Diggers display team will be travelling to the show from Heanor, while there will also be scurry driving demonstrations, a companion dog show and a food fayre featuring hundreds of local suppliers. Elsewhere, there will be livestock displays, a display of heavy horses, vintage cars and tractors, show jumping, craft and trade stalls and floral displays.

‘The show started life in 1860 as a way for local farmers to display their livestock and we still have a strong agricultural and horticultural element to it, including 130 cattle and just as many sheep,’ says Edward, who farms 500 acres of arable land just outside Chellaston.

‘However, it is much more of a family day out these days, with something for everyone, while it gives us in the industry a great opportunity to talk about how our food ends up on our plate and acts as a shop window for the wonderful produce that is grown locally.

‘It is extremely hard work and we could not do it without our fantastic volunteers but it is an important date on the Derbyshire calendar and it’s in my family’s blood. I have the dubious distinction of being the only chairman who has ever cancelled the show within days of it starting but it was the right decision. We are determined to return with a bang in June and hope that the weather will be kinder to us this year.’ w

Tickets for the show are now on sale at venues all over the county, including the Ashbourne, Chesterfield, Derby, Matlock and Swadlincote tourist information centres. Car parking is free and organisers will be laying on a free bus service from Derby city centre. For more details on tickets and prices visit www.derbyshirecountyshow.org.uk

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