Top dogs on show as English National Sheepdog Trials arrive in Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 10:00 22 July 2017
Suffolk on Show
It will be a big day for veteran sheep farmer Bob Wilden when the English National Sheepdog Trials kick off at Haughley Park, near Stowmarket, on Friday, July 27.
The three-day event, expected to attract thousands of visitors, will be a great gathering of the very best working sheepdogs and their handlers from all corners of the country, and will also be a chance for Suffolk to put on a show.
It’s a big logistical challenge: event organiser Bob admitted he was “manically busy” yesterday as he and his team prepared for sheep and infrastructure to move on site this weekend and beyond, ready for the marquees and stands to take their places in the early to mid part of next week. But he is also “very excited” about the arrival of the trials for the first time in their history.
“We are champing at the bit - from this weekend the sheep are starting to arrive,” he said. “We are confident, but at the same time nervous. We are absolutely itching to start doing the practical stuff.”
The top 150 sheepdogs in England will compete and they and their handlers can sure of a warm welcome as Bob and the event committee prepare a series of social events, refreshments and logistical help for them.
And alongside the trials, more than 70 exhibitors at Suffolk on Show, will be showcasing local food and drink, countryside crafts and skills, and rural businesses.
“We want to give visitors the opportunity to watch the very best working sheepdogs and handlers, as well as experiencing the wonderful products and produce here in Suffolk,” said Bob, who is chairman of the East Anglian Sheepdog Society (EASS), keeps around 200 sheep, and runs the Wool Room, selling a range of washable wool bedding products, from Sycamore Farm, Bramford, near Ipswich.
And the park itself was looking at its very best, he said.
“We have a fine tradition of sheep keeping in Suffolk which helps to preserve beautiful parkland landscapes such as at Haughley, and the influence of agriculture on our heritage and lifestyle will be highlighted at Suffolk on Show,” he said.
“Because the venue itself was such a good one, I just felt we had to do something more with it, hence the idea of Suffolk on Show was developed. Suffolk on Show is a very ambitious project and has required a lot more work and detailed planning.
“Obviously, it’s never going to detract from the sheepdog trials as the main event.”
The event has received backing from Mid Suffolk and Babergh district councils, and from a host of sponsors, including Ipswich Building Society, paint firm PPG, which has a factory in Stowmarket, the East of England Co-op, Anglian Water and the Wool Room.
National Sheepdog Trials are held annually each summer in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, by the International Sheep Dog Society (ISDS), which was founded in 1906 and now has more than 6,000 members worldwide.
“For me, the stars of the show are the dogs and handlers who have come from all over the country,” says Tom Huddleston, ISDS chairman. “These dogs are the unsung heroes of the fields and hills of our land. And for three days they become the superstars of the sheep dog world. At the end of the competition we will see champions.”
Organising the trials at Haughley Park is shepherd and grazier Ed Hawkins from Nedging in Suffolk, who has been competing in the World Trials in the Netherlands. He helped train the celebrities taking part in Flock Stars, a television series influenced by the highly successful One Man and His Dog series which ran for twenty-three years and attracted audiences of up to eight million viewers. The sheep have been supplied by Suffolk shepherd and sheep farmer Ed Thornalley.
Proceeds will go to local charities.
Tickets are available online at www.suffolkonshow.co.uk for £10, or £12 on the day. Children under 16, dogs on leads, and car parking, are all free.