You cannot get too much of a good thing

I’m on the train back up to London – a dark evening, pouring rain – never good on a Sunday night at the best of times – and the weekend feels as if it’s spun by so fast. But so much fun.  We had Will and Brandon staying.  Friday night was manic.  The following morning I could hardly get out of bed – seriously.  But I did.  We started in Bridport, as usual – except, of course, this is the weekend of the great annual Bridport Hat Festival.  We couldn’t stay for the main event (as you will understand later), but even on the morning market things were getting… Hatty.

Here are the owners of our favourite stand of all time, whom Charlie & I have christened the famous £1 china lady (and gentleman) because nearly everything on their fabulous stand is china and costs £1. Well, strictly speaking, things like those fine platters may be more like £5, but you get my drift.  Whenever we are Bridport market we make an immediate beeline for the £1 china lady and rarely leave without a heavy bag of goodies.  Get there very early if you want to get there before us, would be my only words of advice.

Typical Market fare:

But this weekend, new signs were popping up:

No hat, but fantastic piping:

I have always been obsessed by the windows of Chantelle, the hairdresser, and for once have my camera to share my obsession.

The hat festival, for some reason, had begun with a mass keep fit in Bucky Doo Square at 9am with Luke Hayter Fitness. We were in Soulshine eating huge fry ups and nursing the most violent hangover I’d had in months, if not years, but in another world I suppose many readers of the blog would have joined me up there with Luke doing our crunches.  Anyway, we did catch a glimpse of Luke putting his stand to bed and I thought it only reasonable to share.

Charlie was wearing his pith helmet which later that morning was destroyed by Mavis. This is the last known photograph of his hat:

This remarkable hat was made of kitchen sponges.  Brilliant.  A sponge cake hat:

More hats arriving.

A boy after my own heart: All tied up.

Almost certainly on the evidence available the shortly-to-be-winner of the best hat competition. It revolved.

Although this was my favourite.

But we didn’t get to see the mass gathering of hats photograph at 1pm at Bucky Doo Square.

For those of you who enjoyed my recent Melplash Show blog, sit back and now enjoy the rest of the ride. We were going to the Dorset Show.  Melplash has the charm, but Dorchester has the seriousness; this is where the real competition happens.

Mainly my camera at this point becomes a celebration of faces.

The studied concentration of the sheep shearing semi finals:

Squashing the wool in to bales:

Getting ready for the grand parade:

The following photograph was taken at the moment that the tannoy announced that this remarkable herd (which we had also seen at Melplash, and which had won best in show there too) was being disbanded and sold off this autumn.  The face of pride, but of pain too: Just part of the remarkable line up of the grand parade – the largest entry of all animals into the Dorset show for years, apparently:

Charlie was of course keen to see the horticulture tent (no entries this year; watch this space for 2018).

At Dorchester, it appears Ron Benfield is the man to watch:

The heaviest marrow was beyond insane.  It completely ate Caddy’s heaviest marrow (which had made the journey to Dorchester after its prize winning moment at Melplash a week ago). 

This is Isla Galloway who had made the most perfect broccoli poodle you could have imagined. 

Probably my favourite exhibit of the whole show, in the SUPER HERO made from vegetable and plant material category. Miss Bethany Field you are the best.

Caddy – Third prize in Onions.  Congratulations!!!

But Ron Benfield was there too…. First.

Roses on display in the gardening tent:

My kind of sign:

Ferret racing: Terrier (and other breeds) racing:

The Rabbits and Cavies tent:

A Continental Giant was the biggest rabbit I have ever seen in my life:

Rabbit people:

Guinea-pig people (it turns out, Cavies are Guinea-pigs).  

It turns out, also, that Guinea-pig people look quite a lot like Guinea pigs.

Homecraft was an incredible tent.  

Scarecrows on arrival:

Wines and gins:


Junior baking:

The following categories are self-explanatory:

This was beautiful on every level:

Items worked in felt:


How on earth Grayson Perry hasn’t been commissioned to move the entire Homecraft tent contents straight to Tate Modern for a summer I don’t know. 


(I had to put this one in again):

Then we went to the beer tent and heard the best band we’ve heard in years – the New Forest Yokels. 

I haven’t seen so many smiles in years, either.

Junior showjumping about to start:

Best dressed competition:

Farm Produce:

To be honest, this lady was pretty worried about the prize-winning hay – she’d spotted some seeds in it.


Between tents:

Pig tent:

Sheep: A lovely sheep lady, just checking up that all her sheep were okay:

A Portland sheep:

The hours had flown by.  We tore ourselves away – we had to get home – our friend Kate was coming over for a drink.  As we left, the sheep shearers were celebrating victory, and settling in for what I can only imagine was a long and happy night.

There is something so deeply moving about these shows; I can’t even tell you.  The pride that goes into the displays; the sheer richness and diversity of the animals and birds; the hard, and often unrewarded effort that goes into husbandry of rare breeds, and of putting real food, not made in factories, but grown in our local fields, cared for by people with skill and knowledge and love, on our plates.

And then, the sense that we are watching a world that hangs perilously on the edge of a fast-moving, modernising, homogenising planet, where everything spins ever closer towards uniformity, mediocrity and sameness.

But I can’t help feeling the Dorchester show will be running in another 175 years.

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