I have that feeling that I am taking a step back in time, and yet only by a two or three weeks. How quickly summer slips in to Autumn, but what a beautiful Autumn it is. We went for a glorious walk today with our friends Caddy and Kate across the hills from Eype to Seaton; the coast bathed in hot sunshine, the sea blue and sparkling. I wish I could show you it all, but for once (and intentionally) I’d decided to leave my camera at home and enjoy things in a different way – through looking, and not photographing.
And partly, too, because there’s a story I want to share, and I know I must write it this weekend or never. The Melplash Show.
I suppose it’s probably true to say that the real reason we didn’t go away this summer was the Melplash Show. Charlie was making sure that his dahlias and vegetables were as beautifully looked after as the most cosseted pooch in the upper east side of New York city. Care and attention reaps rewards, I always like to think, but as the day drew close I can’t help but admitting that we were full of trepidation. New Zealanders from Charlie’s home town of Mayfield are very well aware of his incredible skills in the agricultural and pastoral shows; but this was new territory, and one never quite knows if the locals will be friendly to newcomers.
Early on the morning of the show entry day, Charlie picked and gathered. The flower room came into its own, and a host of ‘bikini vases’, as I have now learned they are called, started to do their work.
By late afternoon the crop was well-edited and beautifully presented: Perfect vegetables were carefully boxed ready for transport:
All deliveries must be made by 8.00pm on the Wednesday evening; we had Zoe and Chris from the office staying, and were heading to Bridport for supper, to Charlie had to leave just a bit early with a car filled with incredible wares. The delivery was carefully and safely made.
The following morning we arrived at the show ground to find hoards of visitors and ominous signs outside several tents.
But the horticultural produce tent was open – and had been judged. At an immediate glance the competition was going to be tough. Frankly terrifying. This, for instance, was a massive cabbage.
But we found some of the dahlias and realised that all that hard work was not quite in vain. FIRST PRIZE, Charlie McCormick.
And again, and again. Second prize for the beautiful bunches of flowers….
Second prize in the hotly contested sweet-pea section (where to be honest the first prize winner was rather show stopping).
Third in Gladioli.
Our friend Caddy who excels in the unusual vegetable category had done beautifully in the edible flower category:
Runner beans, and marrows; moments of great beauty: Charlie won in Rhubarb!!!
This was the BEST IN SHOW:
Charlie: FIRST PRIZE IN ONIONS, another very hotly contested area.
Caddy’s incredible carrots:
And her insane pumpkin, by far the heaviest. Unfortunately for Caddy she had brought in three incredibly heavy pumpkins, only to find that there was just one prize, ‘heaviest’.
Scenes from the Show:
Judging in the honey tent: Show jumping:Cattle judging:A happy prize winner:
The subtly happy face of success…
And even bigger smiles when the Charolais herd won the best in show:
In the sheep pens:
Inspecting the winning cattle:
Sheep and young keepers:
Charlie never told me he had a line in tractors….
Caddy’s son Ted, aged 16, had won several prizes in the Honey tent!
Faces of success!
Vegetable and fruit creations (make a robot):
Flower arranging tent: But back in the horticultural tent, an exciting moment….
it turned out that Charlie had won the Percy and Elise Bowditch Trophy! For most points in Dahlia categories.
Some serious inspection was going on.
Prize giving. Mr Hillier, best allotment.
Bill Howarth cleaned up nearly every single category, a true winner. We were told he enters eleven shows each spring, nineteen each summer. A true champion.
Charlie receiving his cup!
Winner! I was so, so proud. Of course it’s the taking part that really counts, but it’s pretty nice to get the recognition that Charlie is growing the best dahlias – a fact we all suspected but is good to have confirmed.
Another winner! Caddy and her giant pumpkin.
Slightly harsh words in the egg judging.
And more intense inspection. Completely blissful to watch.
Parting scenes from Melplash…
… and then we were heading home, with the quiet flush of success and a raft of awards to put on Charlie’s flower room mantlepiece.
As a postscript, I thought you’d like to see a couple of photographs of the dahlia border this weekend. It’s been a serene, gentle evening. I hope you’ve had the best weekend.