The Border Union Show is traditionally held on the last weekend of July, at Springwood park, just south of the river Tweed and the Scottish Border town of Kelso. If you look carefully at the banner picture above this post, you will see Kelso’s historic Abbey looming dramatically over the glitzy showground site.
It’s primarily an agricultural show – a chance for the farmers of the locality to meet, greet and compare. But lots of other bodies join in the fun – and I was there as a member of the Tweed Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers to demonstrate with my little Innerleithen spinning wheel.
I’ve been going to the show as a demonstrator for several years. We’ve had scorchingly hot years, and a thoroughly miserable wet year (last year – see my 2015 blog post for the Tweed Guild for how we survived the rain), but this year was proper traditional Scottish weather with sunshine and showers. The plastic covers went on, and the plastic covers went off. We ran inside with spinning wheels and our knitted displays – and then they all came out again! It was hard work, and a long, tiring day, – but great fun too. Not just for me – everybody everywhere seemed to be having a blast.This year we found ourselves in the best of company. We were sharing a tent with the Dunse flock of rare breed sheep!They are lovely – but at close quarters, in a tent all day – yes, they do pong a bit (especially when their fruity fleeces come inside to avoid the rain). I did not envy those members of the guild who spent the day based inside the tent. But they put up magnificent displays of felting and basketry, and demonstrated their skills with energy and enthusiasm right through the day.There was lots of interest.The Tweed Guild also had an interesting display of some of the different breeds of sheep and their fleeces.And next to it, a beautiful display of natural-dyed materials. (I’ve been really naughty here and snuck my acid-dyed royal blue Fika shawl into the display 😦 )Outside there was a group of spinners. This worked very well, as we attracted a lot of interest from passers by.And there were spinning lessons! Lots of youngsters were fascinated by the spinning wheels. Such a great pleasure to show them exactly what spinning entailed.But we were only a teeny tiny part of an enormous enterprise occupying 46 acres of parkland. I cannot do justice to it all because I only took short walks around, but let’s make a start with the animals as they were after all the raison d’etre for the show.
As we walked around, an enormous bull lumbered out of the showground. It looked docile enough, but we were stopped well away to allow it to pass a safe distance from the public.The other bulls were waiting inside looking remarkably peaceful and calm.Further on, we came to the sheep. I love to see farming folk studying the sheep, leaning into the caging – as they have done since time immemorial (check out this fine Ravilious picture in the Beaford archive).There were even some Blue-face Leicester sheep – highly prized by spinners!Canny sheep were taking advantage of all the food on offer.In a nearby tent, there were goats – interesting to see what a lot of young people seemed to be involved with them.Not all animals were flesh and blood.I was particularly intrigued by the egg judging in the poultry tent. For some reason, I had not thought that eggs would be judged – only the birds. Clearly the quality of the yolk is an important part of the judging criteria. Not Stephen’s favourite spot (he doesn’t like eggs).I’ll finish the livestock pics with some of rabbits because Stephen took an enormously large amount of photos of them. Aren’t these little cuties?!In the main ring, meanwhile, young motorcyclists were entertaining the crowds with terrifying daredevil feats.Oh my goodness!There’s definitely a macho feel to this place. There are big boys’ toys (photograph kindly contributed by Stephen).We are never allowed to forget that there is serious money behind all of this. There were more spanking new four-wheel drives on this showground than I have ever seen before in my life. The big landowners are in evidence – not just in their tweeds and their cavalry twills, but at the stalls.
This is the Roxburghe Estates tent. Roxburghe Estates are based at the magnificent nearby Floors Castle (home of the Duke of Roxburghe) and from there they run a large and diverse local business empire.There are plenty of expensive shops around.Thank goodness for cheaper treats that we can all enjoy on a sunny day out.What fascinated me most was the Industrial Section. Inside were competition entries for jam-making, flower-arranging, children’s pictures, knitted garments, cake baking etc etc. I’ve never heard it referred to as Industrial before – it’s more what I would have expected to be the province of the local Women’s Institute.What really shocked me about the displays was the wire fence caging them in. To stop passers-by handling the goods, or worse, perhaps to prevent theft?! Either way it looks dreadful. Particularly in the case of the children’s competitions.I’ll be the first to admit that my taste is never the same as the judges. Here’s a prize-winning floral arrangement.And here’s the one I would have chosen – the honeysuckle arrangement on the left.Perhaps there is a bit of an old-fashioned look to some of the competitions? Hard to say really because nothing is shown to best effect behind chicken wire…Lastly, just time to show you one of my favourite parts of the showground. Small demonstration beds where they were growing sample plants for fallow ground – linseed, red clover, marigolds and cornflowers etc. How wonderful it would be to see more of these grown over our landscape!All in all: a grand day out 🙂