Established in 1923, the Kent County Show has been giving visitors a taste of life in the Garden of England for the best part of a century. Featuring over four hundred exhibitors and a (mind-boggling) choice of three hundred-odd activities, there’s certainly no shortage of things to see and do here. Spread over three days in early July, this year’s show conveniently coincided with our short stay at my Grandma’s, so Grandma, Mum and I decided to venture over and make a day of it.
We set off for the show mid-morning, and by the time we’d driven over, found a spot to park the car and bought our tickets, it was approaching midday. Our entrance point took us through some woodland, complete with a small paddock of working horses and miniature railway. Craftsmen and women demonstrated traditional crafting techniques and a clearing was filled with little tents and a café selling hot drinks and light bites, where Mum and Grandma stopped for their late-morning caffeine-fix.
Around the corner, we found the beekeeping tent. Numerous varieties of honey (including a vile-sounding lavender honey) were for sale inside the tent; behind the scenes, bees buzzed around their hives. Continuing through the tent, we came upon some extravagant floral displays. I particularly liked the patchwork themed arrangements, though there were many beautiful works on display. (Going on the first day is a definite advantage in warm weather, as I suspect the flowers were probably wilting a little by the end of the show.)
We weren’t overly impressed by the fruit and vegetable displays – they’re not a patch on those at Southport – so once we’d finished touring the tent, we decided to head towards the food stalls we’d spied earlier. Stalls were dotted around the bandstand, and there were plenty of benches spread around the little copse. I couldn’t resist Roly Poly’s pulled pork brioche roll, while Mum was drawn to the duck wraps from The Duck Truck. Grandma opted for a classic cheese and tomato toastie.
Strings of crocheted flowers were wound around the trees and pom-poms and dreamcatchers hung from branches overhead. Adorable crochet mice and bees completed the woodland scene.
Refreshed and revived, we headed off towards the Cattle Marquee. (We did potter around the Food Hall en route, but none of us had room for a slice of cake.) It was warm in the tent, so the cows were regularly led outside and doused in cold water. Some of the cows had spent a wee bit too much time in the sun and were looking a little pink as a result.
For me, seeing the animals at shows like this is always the highlight. After having my fill of the Highland cows and their pals, we moved on to the Goat Marquee. The Three Billy Goats Gruff and their chums were on fine form and their coats were sleek and glossy.
Emerging from the tent, we pricked up our ears at the sound of an announcement over the tannoy, asking visitors to gather round the Cattle Ring for the Lamb National. This event was an absolute cracker: picture sheep (with fantastic names including Woolley Jumper, No Ewe Turn and Mint Sauce) careering round a course with a sheepdog bringing up the rear and you’ll get an idea of just how comic it was. Plus, these racing sheep were none other than the hardy Herdwick sheep which graze the slopes of the Lake District’s fells.
We then wandered up and down the Sheep Lines, and caught some of the judging in the ‘Any Other Continental’ section. (I particularly liked the Valais Blacknose Sheep, two of which feature in the photo below.)
Plump piggies and their piglets were resting in pens at the far end of the Sheep Lines, and we found a collection of geese, hens and small furry friends in an adjacent tent.
We then stopped for a milkshake from Shmoo by the fairground, which featured a carousel and traditional fairground games like hook-a-duck. Before heading home, we pottered up to the Vintage Vehicles, to see if we could find a tractor like the one my Grandad used to own. There were some glossy newer models on display and also older vehicles looking a little worse for wear.
Tucked away at the back, we found one which closely resembled the one we were after; it was a little rough around the edges, but the sign indicated its owner was in the process of restoring it.
The Kent County Show (or any County Show for that matter, as they exist across the country) is a quintessentially British day out, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. (I couldn’t resist sneaking in a reference to one of my favourite sweet treats in the title. For any readers who are unfamiliar with Percy Pigs, they’re fruity gummy sweets sold at M&S.)
- Take enough cash to cover you for the day. Their ticket offices do accept card payments, but they were playing up when we were there so we had to pay in cash. Cash points are available on site, but I wouldn’t rely solely on these.
- It’s worth scanning a map when you arrive, and deciding on which things you really want to see. Even for the most energetic visitors, it would be a challenge to see everything in a single day!