The Kent County Show may seem an odd day out for a couple of vegetarian townies, but we found plenty to see, do and like at Kent’s annual celebration of farming and countryside living. The show, organised by the Kent County Agricultural Society, happens yearly on the Detling Showground near Maidstone, and is hugely popular, attracting more than 75,000 visitors over the weekend.
We arrived early on Sunday to beat the crowds and found the site brimming with stalls selling everything from local foods, crafts and ciders to hot tubs, dog beds and tractors. Throughout the day, a series of exhibitions and competitions, mostly showcasing various farm animals, aimed to entertain and educate the public on the importance of farming. The site itself can be somewhat daunting, and with rows of stalls spread across the 200 acres, it’s easy to get a lost and forget where you have already been.
The food was a definite highlight, with a rich array of delicious things to try and buy. We were especially pleased to find several vegetarian and vegan stalls, showcasing vegan iced cream, rice milks and Sheese, a soya based cheese alternative that can apparently melt on pizzas!
Alexander from Potash Farm was eager to tell us about his (cob)nuts. He has been doing the County Show for 10 years now, selling a range of nut based products. Potash Farm offers ‘plough to plate’ for the nut world. He was keen to demonstrate his new cobnut based skin repair balm, which will be released this autumn.
It was good to see the Dog’s Trust at this very dog friendly event. They were even running a creche for pets who needed a little rest. The British Hen Welfare Trust were also present, a national organisation who rescue caged hens as they reach 18 months old, when they would otherwise be culled. Working with Foal Farm at Biggin Hill, they arrange new homes and the chickens are sent to free-range farms, orchards as well as private residences.
We found Mid Kent Astronomical Society in the Heritage section, displaying their collection of samples from space, including moon rock and pieces from the meteor that crashed in Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. Ian and Chris from MKAS’ enthusiasm is infectious, full of fascinating facts and ideas. They are working on bringing a newly acquired telescope to a site in Medway that they hope to open to the public for educational visits.
Walking though a field of beautiful vintage cars and vans, we bumped into two unusually dressed characters from Thanet Cosplay, who were out promoting Play Margate, an arcade, indie and retro gaming show happening this August. After a brief chat they directed us to a particularly interesting tent where The Kent Family Arts Network and Kent Theatre and Marketing Managers Association had brought together a host of organisations including: Orchard Theatre in Dartford; The Margate Winter Garden; The Theatre Royale in Margate; The Assembly Hall in Tunbridge Wells; STAG Community Arts Centre; The Hazlitt in Maidstone; The Woodville in Gravesend and the City of Rochester Symphony Orchestra to run a collaborative display, promoting their family work and generally helping each other out.
They were running activities including fancy dress, horrible histories and performances from The Woodville Theatre For Youth. Being the first time they have worked together like this, their representative said “it has been really positively experience. I’m thrilled with how everyone has worked together”. Next year they are hoping to run more performances and make their display even bigger and better. It’s encouraging to see this type of collaborative working in the arts world, more of which is much needed!
Along the way we saw pole climbing races, blacksmithery, wood carving, a dog swimming pool, Morris dancing, steam engines, remote controlled lorries, a one man band and a Spitfire flyover. It’s impossible to do justice to the variety of shows, stalls and exhibitions at the Kent County Show and even harder to see them all in one day, but well worth trying.
All images in this feature are by Medway Photographer Nikki Price.