Rural pursuits old and new at Game and Country Fair
- Credit: East Anglian Game and Country Fair
From traditional pursuits to the latest extreme sports, this weekend's East Anglian Game and Country Fair will show ways to enjoy yourself in the countryside. CHRIS HILL reports.
Its heritage may be rooted in rural tradition – but the East Anglian Game and Country Fair aims to prove there's much more fun to be had in the modern countryside than hunting, fishing and shooting.
This year celebrating its tenth anniversary, the event is still growing and organisers expect to draw about 40,000 visitors to the Norfolk Showground this weekend.
Alongside the time-honoured displays by gundogs, falconers and marksmen, the programme also showcases modern attractions spanning everything from freestyle mountain-biking to tips on environmental living and the latest thrill-a-minute equestrian sport.
And that commitment to continually find something new – allied to the hundreds of trade stands, shopping stalls, arena displays and 'have-a-go' experiences – is part of the reason for the show's enduring success.
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The event has been extended in 2013 to incorporate more food stands and trade stalls, with visitors encouraged to try their hand at rural pursuits like fly-fishing, clay shooting or gundog scurries.
Meanwhile, the 11 show arenas will host displays and entertainment including a Shetland pony Grand National, complete with mini Aintree jumps, with 60 ponies and 14 young riders competing from all over the country.
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Other new attractions this year will be a Falconry Village and special area for alpacas, donkeys and reptiles – each with experts on hand to discuss their animals and demonstrate their skills.
Show organiser Andy Grand said: 'The main thing is that it is for all walks of life and there is something for the whole family.
'You might like game shooting or you might just be a family with a dog who love the countryside but live in the town or city. This gives us the chance to bring the countryside to Norwich, and we've got displays from all over the world.
'The main aim of the event is to get people involved. They can sit and watch the main arena, but here you can try your hand at lots of things as well, from fly-fishing to clay shooting or the gundog scurry. There are lots of opportunities to try something you may not have done before.'
And there are plenty of opportunities for show-goers to get involved in the entertainment, by trying their hand at clay shooting, fly fishing, ferret racing, archery, mountain boarding or power-kiting.
The 'have-a-go' attitude is also extended to pets, which can be entered into dog agility and jumping competitions, the pet dog show or even the terrier and lurcher show.
A central part of the show this year will be the Clay Line and Shooting Village headed by six-time world champion John Bidwell, who will also be hosting an 'Individual Pro Gun Challenge' with £1,000 prize money to be won.
One of the key themes of the show is to 'have a go', with no experience needed for some trial tuition in clay shooting, or for the dog agility competitions where people can enter their own pets for a tilt at glory in the arena.
Mr Grand said the show's initial visitor figures when it was first held a decade ago were about a quarter of what was expected this year.
'Although it has grown, we have not lost sight of what brings people to us,' he said. 'The feel and the atmosphere is quite unique. We try to be at the forefront of fairs like this across the county. We don't want to have a completely traditional game and country fair, although that is very important. It is what the fair is built on.
'We offer so many different activities and a wide variety of trade stands and all of our team is born and bred in Norfolk, so we have a big connection with the farming community as well. There is so much going on that I cannot imagine someone coming here and saying: 'There's nothing I'm interested in'.
'What we try to do every year is to keep building on new and exciting things so it keeps growing and growing.
'That is why it has become such a successful event. And it is not just for the enthusiasts. We want everyone to come down and have a great time, or to have a go at something they've never done before.'
Returning attractions include the UK National Horseboarding Championship, the latest 'equine extreme sport' involving racers towing team-mates standing on mountain boards – almost a cross between horse-racing and water-skiing.
'They reach speeds up to 40-mph and it can be quite spectacular if they crash and burn,' said Mr Grand. 'It is a bit crazy.'
The country kitchen has a new line up of cookery workshops and demonstrations during the weekend from local chefs including Chris Coubrough, Richard Hughes, Damian Wawrzyniak, Roger Hickman and Sam Bryant.
The food hall will bring producers and exhibitors from across Norfolk, while almost 300 shopping stands will offer products ranging from fashion and footwear to gun-making and fishing products.
t East Anglian Game & Country Fair, Norfolk Showground, April 27-28. Gates open 8am. Entry prices on the day £15 adults, £5 children, £40 family, under-5s free. Parking is free. Dogs on leads welcome. More details on 08712 301102 or visit: www.ukgamefair.co.uk
t You can download a free game fair app at the iTunes App Store.