If you like country traditions, you will simply love British agricultural shows. The agricultural show season is now in full swing and over the remaining summer months, all over the British Isles, there are prodigious numbers of these wonderful shows that range from tiny village affairs to the full blown, three and four-day mammoth events that encompass every possible aspect of country living and a lot more besides.

There are few outdoor occasions as pleasurable as doing a county show in true style and the only way to really do so is to become a ‘Member’ or a ‘Governor’ of the particular society. Obviously shelling out a goodly sum for a single membership and nearly twice that for the privilege of becoming a Governor may seem extortionate, but let’s look closely at the benefits.

First of all as you arrive at a packed showground you are immediately directed to the forward parking area, nearer the main entrance and quicker to get out of at the end of the day when you are tired and just want to get home.

Next, as you swan up to the entrance gate, wearing your badge, you are ushered straight through without having to queue in a long line of people with Walkmans, screaming brats and overloaded pushchairs. Once inside the showground you can beat a path to the Members’ or Governors’ Enclosure.

Here you know there are pleasantly run, clean toilets and a welcome cup of coffee waiting. It is also here, with the aid of a catalogue (amongst the fresh flowers, smart hats and possible rumour of attending royalty) that you can quickly plan out the day ahead; and plan it you must, for there is a very real danger, at any major show, with so many unusual and exciting attractions, to try to cram far too much into one day.

One of the more pressing priorities at any agricultural show, if you wish to eat well, is to book a lunch table early; the members’ restaurant fills up surprisingly quickly. Before you book though, do check in the catalogue that your chosen lunchtime doesn’t clash with a really good display, such as the gunners, in the main ring.

The joy of membership to any agricultural show is that you can return again and again, throughout the whole show period. This means over three days, for instance, you would probably be able to cover most, of what you wanted to see. Another advantage of membership is that many shows will allow you (as a member) through the gates the night before opening day.

This is undoubtedly one of the nicest times to visit the showground. It is quiet, you don’t have to push through crowds, you can creep into the flower tent and have a sneak preview, animals are being unloaded and bedded down for the night, there is an atmosphere of suppressed excitement, you can usually get a bite to eat in the herdsman’s canteen and sometimes, if the show secretary is in a helpful mood and has a pile put by, you can even purchase a catalogue.

If you still need convincing, picture this; standing in the Members’ Enclosure, surrounded by the by the buzz of lively conversation whilst watching a spectacular four-in-hand coaching display, lit by the early evening sun; with a large gin and tonic in your hand.

MAJOR AGRICULTURAL SHOWS

Derbyshire County – Elvaston Castle (May)

Devon County – Exeter (May)

Shropshire & West Midlands – Shrewsbury (May)

Surrey County – Guildford (May)

Heathfield – East Sussex (May)

Royal Bath & West – Shepton Mallet (May – June)

Royal Cornwall – Penzance (June)

South of England – Ardingly (June)

Midland Counties – Uttoxeter (June)

Lincolnshire – Lincoln (June)

Royal Highland – Edinburgh (June)

Cheshire County – Knutsford (June)

Royal Norfolk – Norwich (June)

North Yorkshire – Thirsk (June)

East of England – Peterborough (June)

Royal Show – Stoneleigh, Warwickshire (July)

Royal Welsh – Builth Wells (July)

Kent County – Maidstone (July)

Honiton – Devon (August)

Bucks County – Aylesbury (September)

Newbury & Berkshire – Newbury (September)

Romsey Show – Hampshire (September)