“By order, Summer lingers through September, in Camelot”.

The meeting was a rather gloomy affair, a wet and windy night following on from the worst storms of the summer thus far, which left us all pessimistic for the task in hand.  We had gathered in the local hostelry to put the finishing touches to the detailed plan which would see the successful holding of the village show for yet another year.  Only once in the 11 years I have been involved has the show been cancelled because of bad weather.  Throughout the summer months almost every show in the county and beyond had succumbed to the deluge that fallen on the country.  The miracle was that the Royal Welsh survived, the only week of the whole summer which saw the baking sun emerge day after day was that third week in July.  Ever since the ground has been saturated and it was that issue as much as the rainfall on the day which made for such a prediction, that we might have to cancel.

Following the last minute approvals and arrangements, discussions about stewardships, judges, commentators, where the tent was to be placed, where the vintage was to be displayed and a myriad more minor but oh so vital matters, all of which make the difference between a fairly stress free day and one fraught with moans and groans and disagreements, we set a final deadline at which a ‘Go’ or ‘No go’ decision would be made.  By the time that evening arrived the weather had set fair and the forecast was for a fine settled period of warm sunny weather thus allowing the field to dry out.  The ground conditions are paramount, vehicles need to be able to drive across the large expanse of old parkland. First come the horse lorries and trailers filled with well groomed sheep and then, later in the day, the ‘Trotters’ arrive and with them the largest crowd of the day who come to indulge in a little ‘flutter’ on the races.  The field has to withstand all of  that whilst remaining, by the end, a productive pasture.

Sheep entries at Beulah Show 2012

A sunny day and a fine entry of sheep for the judges to peruse at the 2012 Beulah Show.

Whilst the success of the day is very much a communal effort, the ‘behind the scenes’ hard work of a small number of the committee is the  engine. Driving the whole thing is the immense and amazing amount of work of the Show Secretary.  She arrives at the meetings with everything organised and in place, from the marquee, the judges, the rosettes and the toilets.  The Treasurer keeps watch over the inflows and outflows and assures us the former exceeds the latter and the (new) Chairman conducts the band of helpers and makes any such judgement or decision as the Secretary allows or requires him to make – very few !

It is an ageless and time-honoured way of running community events and is repeated in village halls and pubs throughout the land.  The ‘public’ who turn up to view the exhibits of fine stock animals, of vegetables and flowers, of jams and cakes and even the vintage tractors, take for granted that it will happen. They expect that the bar will be there, the chip van and the ice cream van will be in attendance. They trust they will be safe and be content that the judges have made impartial decisions based purely on the quality of the item before them.  So it is and so it will remain as long as there are individuals given to contributing freely of time and knowledge to ensure the annual end of summer show is held.

Rose wins First rize at Beulah Show 2012

“A Rose by any other name is still a Rose” except when it gets a First at Beulah Show, then it becomes the ‘Champion Rose’ !

My part is a small walk on cameo; I am charged with organising a display of vintage farm machinery.  In essence this means encouraging some tractor enthusiasts I know to bring their proud possessions along for the good folk of Beulah to admire.  In truth most of those who arrive do so without the slightest encouragement from me, they come because they are local and because they enjoy a day out and a drive through the lanes around the village.  Hence my main contribution is to reconnoitre the route of the run,  not a simple task in truth.

Old tractors and their drivers have certain requirements and ‘musts to avoid’.  Firstly, they will be holding up other road users and thereby create a potential danger (as the other road users get frustrated and attempt to overtake in inappropriate places),  so as little time as possible needs to be spent on major routes.  Secondly, we live in  hill country so it is inevitable that parts of the run will require some uphill effort; old tractors do not take kindly to huffing and puffing up long steep hills so the route needs to avoid these as much as is possible.  Certainly some of the steep roads around here are totally unsuitable.  Every ‘up’ needs to be followed by a ‘down’ or a steady flat run, to allow engines to cool down.  Long down-hills are to be avoided also as the brakes on the old girls are not too fond of heating up – I hesitate to suggest some are not really fit for purpose !  The small convoy needs marshalling and protecting as do those who are likely to encounter us on our leisurely jaunt through the leafy lanes of Breconshire.  There needs therefore to be an escort (preferably front and back) to warn other users of what they are about to encounter.  One of the biggest dangers is drivers being distracted by looking at the fine old tractors as they drive past.  Those who live on the route need to be alerted so they can either come out and enjoy the column of nostalgia as it smokes by or go out for the afternoon to avoid it !

David Brown on the Beulah Show tractor run 2012

The convoy, led by Dai P on the David Brown 880 heads into the hills from the showground at Beulah on the 2012 road-run.

Classic tractors of the 1950s and 1960s are not designed for road travel, their top speed is around 10mph, some are generally slower, one or two can manage a few miles per hour more, thus there is a tendency for the convoy to become stretched out in a very short time, especially if a hill is encountered.  It is essential that the escort keeps an eye in the mirror and halts the lead tractors at junctions or after a long climb to allow the slower machines to catch up.  What takes less than half an hour in a car, even at an average speed of around 20 mph, takes well over an hour with seven old tractors, longer if there are some real slow ones.

There are other considerations too, like trying to avoid right turns across busy roads.  It is preferable to find a route that consists of a square in which only left turns are made and which results in returning to the show field via an anti-clockwise route.  I had expended all options in that respect on previous runs so this year I had to include a cross-over of the main route, the road from Beulah to Newbridge-on-Wye which, although a ‘B’ road, is a very busy route especially on a summer Saturday.

Vintage tractors on the road run of the 2012 Beulah Show.

The quiet lanes are great for slow tractors. With seven to marshall and a fast Allis Chalmers in front it needed some care, here Dai Pritchard, a ‘guest’ driver all the way from Fochriw near Merthyr, leads the group.

Unfortunately for those of us who live in these parts the roads around are plagued on weekends by uninvited monsters with blacked out faces.  The roads become a perilous place as hundreds of anarchists, who exist outside any of the laws of the road that the rest of us have to abide by, invade our territory.  Mad motor bikers are a scourge of modern society and the winding rural routes are like a magnet to them.  I have mentioned previously how, almost every weekend, roads are closed and air ambulances scrambled in an all too often vain attempt at saving a life of one of these anti-social morons.  It thus became a game of Russian roulette to try to cross the ‘B’ road as we attempted to get the slow tractors across between nutters doing well over the 60mph speed limit.  I so wanted to have a wire strung between the tractors as they crossed over…

With some care (and just a couple of frights !) all crossed the busy road and we then drove along a quiet lane which led us over Cribarth common and back to the road for home.  In all we were out for nearly two hours and ended up at the Trout Inn where Madam Secretary had once again arranged for a discounted supply of sausage and chips.  It amuses me how quickly this has become ‘tradition’ and is now a well ingrained feature of the Vintage day at the Beulah Show.

On returning to the showground the tractors lined up once again and stood to attention as the Chairman strode purposefully along the line stopping to diligently inspect each tractor and question the proud owner; rather in the manner of a military parade I felt !  An eventual, and I have to say deserved, winner was chosen and this year for the first time a second and third prize was awarded.

Ford Dexta being judged at Beulah show 2012

The Chairman judges last year’s winner, the nicely restored 1958 Ford Dexta of Derek Morris, alas it only managed a second this year !

The previous two years saw a Fordson Dexta and a Ferguson TED win and those two tractors came second and third respectively this year.  The deserved winner – albeit the owner was unable to attend the road run – was a splendidly restored David Brown 990 owned by Philip Evans of Llandrindod Wells.

It was a good entry and an enjoyable time was had by all the exhibitors but one notable absentee needs a mention.  My old friend Stan Archer of Llandovery suffered some serious injuries in a nasty accident whilst loading his Forson Major at a recent event.  Fortunately he is recovering well and both he and his trusty steed – which suffered some bends and dents – will hopefully be back on the road shortly.  God speed Stan.

David Brown 990 wins the 2012 Beulah Show

Phil Evans and his very smart David Brown 990 being congratulated by the Show Chairman at Beulah 2012

Ferguson TED at Beulah Show 2012

The third placed Ferguson TED of 1950 vintage owned by another old friend from Llandovery, Eynon Pugh, won the event three years ago when the now retired Chairman, Tom Evans of Aberannell couldn’t resist his nostaligc memories of working such a machine. Here he is no doubt telling Eynon that had he still been judging, the old Grey Fergie would definitely have won it !

It is a stressful time for me leading up to the show – nothing compared to the other Committee members mind you – but it was ‘all alright on the night’ and I want to thank all those who came along, it was a great display for such a small village show and everyone enjoyed seeing the old tractors which so many of the senior farming citizens of the area remember so fondly – or otherwise !

The show is famous for the sheep competition and judging is always a difficult affair.  I have written in previous years how I stand nonplussed at the spectacle and cannot see for the life of me how the judge picks one over the other.  Fortunately there never seems to be any dissension or conflict and the rosettes are awarded to the proud owners to universal applause.  It seemed to me, as I took a quick stroll around the pens, that this year there was an even harder decision to be made as the pens were full of excellent quality animals which even a non sheep man like myself could appreciate.

Sheep competition at Beulah 2012

Pens full of quality sheep was the highlight of the Beulah show 2012.

Winning Welsh Black Sheep at Beulah 2012

The winning animals get brightly coloured rosettes which are highly prized by the owners. It is the recognition of good stockmanship and means the farmer is held in high esteem in his community and amongst his peers. I see them, sometimes decades old, hung proudly in farm kitchens and barns.

Inside the huge marquee are the entries for the horticulture and craft sections which also include the jams and cakes.  Here too much attention is given to the entries and those adjudged winners.  In the floral and vegetable sections there is always high quality entries and here too I am at a complete loss to understand how the judges declare one the winner.  They are all winners as far as I am concerned, me who can’t even grow weeds !!

Select salad at Beulah Show 2012

This has to be the hardest section to judge surely !? How do you begin to judge lettuce !

I didn’t manage to get to the horse gymkhana, the dog competition, I missed the thrilling end (and rather alarming catapulting of a driver) of the Trotting races.  I didn’t get an ice cream even but I did have an excellent lunch, a perk of being a ‘Steward’ of the show !  What I did see, and always see, were dozens, if not hundreds, of local folk having a jolly good day out.  There were little groups of ladies nattering away for hours in the tent, intense scrutiny by elder statesmen and women of the competition entries and breathless excitement as the raffle was drawn.  It is nothing exceptional, it occurs everywhere and every year but it is important and not to be taken lightly.  In these troubled times such village events are the glue which hold communities together.  Village schools have closed and the Churches are less influential and not so well attended, although in this village there is still a good congregation and social events around the religious houses.

Perhaps it is just as well, after all, Beulah is a place from which Heaven can be seen…

Stick making is a tradition at village shows

The craft of Stick Making is an age old contender for village shows. This horn handled one was a worthy winner.


One Response to ““By order, Summer lingers through September, in Camelot”.”

  1. cakenessmonster Says:

    Those David Browns could give the Massey-Ferguson 35 a run for its money for first place in my heart! Beautiful machines. What age would those be? Are they post-Cropmaster? I love the grey Fergie’s spotlight, too!

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