Katharine Loyd and the Moreton Show
PUBLISHED: 10:28 24 July 2015 | UPDATED: 13:56 27 July 2015
Katharine Loyd knows a thing or two about farming and what makes a good agricultural show. It's all about balance, she says…
Always the same and always changing, that’s the driving force behind Moreton Show, a fixture in the Cotswolds’ calendar since its inception in 1949.
Still occupying the same site on the edge of the town as it has always done, and long established as one of the biggest one-day agricultural shows in the country, the Moreton event – showcasing the countryside in a day – protects its traditions while gradually welcoming the diverse range of exhibits and attractions demanded by today’s show-going public.
And that is just the way it should be, according to Katharine Loyd, who is enjoying the first of a two-year stint as chairman of The Moreton-in-Marsh & District Agricultural and Horse Show Society.
She says, “One of the challenges of our show is getting the balance right between the pure farming side and the entertainment. It is what the excellent team in the office strive to do every year. I would like to think that the farmers who were among the 2,000 people attending the first show in 1949 would very much approve of what we’ve done.
“They’d be surprised to see how busy the showground is today and some might be disapproving of the broader range of entertainment we now have. Getting the balance right is tricky but desperately important.”
This year, there will be 350 trade stands, showing or selling everything from combine harvesters to wellington boots and the very best locally-produced food. There are rural crafts to learn about, like mole catching and stone walling. There are even dancing sheep. The two attraction rings include dogs, ducks, falconry, ponies in fancy dress, racing terriers and a parade of 60 vintage tractors, telling their own tale of how things in the countryside used to be.
An injection of power and speed comes with The Imps, the dashing youngsters on motorbikes from East London who are coming to Moreton-in-Marsh fresh from their appearance at the Basel International Tattoo in Switzerland.
The show is in safe hands with Katharine Loyd, however. Like her grandparents, Sir Cyril and Lady Kleinwort and her father, David Peake, she is a past president. Born and brought up in the very house she lives in today, on the Sezincote Estate between Moreton-in-Marsh and Stow-on-the-Wold, Katharine graduated with a degree in psychology from St Andrew’s University before returning to her beloved Gloucestershire.
She adds, “Gloucestershire has always been my home. It’s where my grandparents came during the Second World War and we have always farmed here. My grandfather worked in London but fell in love with the trees and countryside that happily were within easy travelling distance to the city.
“My mother took over the running of Sezincote in the 1960s and I came back here from university in the late 1980s. My active involvement really began in 1994 when my mother bought Upper Town fruit farm, where she let me have a free rein. I diversified the farm further by opening Longborough Farm Shop in 1997.
“Each year I would look forward to taking a stand at Moreton Show, selling fruit from the farm. In those days, we had to be on site very early to create our stall before the show opened. Now, traders are allowed onto the showground the day before, so there is much more time to set up. I remember it was always touch and go as to whether the Victoria plums would be ready, but it was always a happy day, meeting and talking to the many visitors.
“Of course, I always went to the Moreton Show as a child. It was a highlight of growing up, although I do remember the bitter-sweet feeling of seeing the signs go up in August because while we were excited about going to the show, we also knew it signalled the end of the summer holidays.”
With its traditional date of the first Saturday in September, Moreton Show still does mark – and celebrate – the end of the summer holidays. It’s a date the organisers have guarded jealously over the years. They even forced no less an organisation than the Air Ministry to change the date of the popular RAF open day at nearby Little Rissington in 1971.
This year’s show on September 5 is promising to be the best ever, although 2014 will be hard to beat. The glorious summer saw crowds of 25,000 come to the showground and a record number of entries for virtually every section. It meant gate takings up by 15%, an increase in trade stand revenue and a healthy profit for the Society.
According to The History of Moreton Show, produced to commemorate its 50th Anniversary in 1999, its original aim was “to improve the breeding and rearing of livestock, hunters and heavy horses and the standard of farming and farm crafts”. These aims remain firmly in place, though sadly the number of working horses has slowly dwindled. Katharine believes the show’s challenges go beyond farming.
“As society becomes increasingly urbanised, the show has become one way for farmers and those working in rural areas to speak to people outside their community.
“For me, a good result on show day is seeing people who have come from far and wide, from non-farming, urban communities, who have really enjoyed themselves and taken something positive away about farming and the countryside. To engage the wider community is key to the future success of the show.
“Of course, the livestock competitions are vital and the 2,000-plus animals are, for me, the stars of the show, but communicating to a broader audience is so important. It’s crucial that people see where their food comes from. There’s also the countryside itself; people often have the preconception that the countryside is a natural thing, but of course the landscape is the way it is largely because of farming practices over the years.
These days, Katharine is manager of the 4,000-acre Sezincote Estate, with its property; let farms; woodland; 220 Limousin cattle; and fields of rape, wheat, barley and beans. So far self-taught as a farmer, she will embark on an MA in Rural Estate Management at the RAU in Cirencester later this year. Operating as a woman in something of a man’s world has never bothered her.
“I think it’s much more common now to see women in this business and that’s well reflected in the show,” says Katharine.
“We have a young ambassador in Molly Gaden, a leading member of the Moreton Young Farmers, who are part of the Future Farmers’ Initiative, which is a feature of the show this year and more than a third of the show’s Council are women.
“I feel there is a very positive energy about the show, with an increase in classes involving young people and a focus on the next generation of farmers. Things are looking good for the future.”
For tickets and all the details about this year’s Moreton Show, go to www.moretonshow.co.uk