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Girl About Sussex Reviews The Autumn Show and Game Fair

Autumn is celebrated in the Sussex countryside at the annual Autumn Show and Game Fair (3 & 4 October 2020) at the South of England Showground in Ardingly, West Sussex.

The South England Agricultural Society, which hosts the Autumn Fair as well as the Spring Live Show, the Winter Fair and the famous South of England Show, was deemed a ‘Good to Go’ venue by Visit England and I was delighted that it would still be going ahead this year as planned.

Visitors were told in advance that some of the hands-on activities would be restricted and that strict government guidelines would have to be adhered to throughout.

The fun-packed line-up for the show this year appeared little different to normal and as my family and I go every year, we decided to continue to support this event that locals enjoy so much.

On arrival, marshals directed you to your car parking space – parking is free – and you were instantly greeted at the entrance by clear Covid signage, planned and executed with the organisers by local Sussex company Cloud MPS. The instructions were clear: visitors must keep two metres apart, hands must be regularly cleaned at one of the many marked hand sanitising stations, the NHS Track and Trace app check-in was required, and it was mandatory to wear your mask inside the food hall and animal barn. Many visitors, like us, decided to wear their masks throughout as an extra precaution.

The schedule for the weekend welcomed back favourite demonstrations such as gundog training, falconry and birds of prey displays, and the fantastic Sussex Yeomanry as the headline act with their Napoleonic mounted skill-at-arm display.

Local and independent producers were out in abundance selling everything from homemade fudge, crafts, garden items and dog equipment. I bought a new harness yesterday from a well-known pet retailer for our puppy (Dolly – now six months) and it was not working out well at all. We got her properly fitted with a new one from Libby’s International which instantly made our lives so much easier. Dolly had a great time making lots of new four-legged friends and trying the calming puppy kibble from Duncan’s Dog Co! There was even a Paws in the Park puppy play zone where Dolly played in the ball pool and socialised with other puppies.

The food hall is always a highlight of the show and includes tasty treats to sample and take-home including artisan pies, cakes, gourmet rolls, cheese and South African Biltong, as well as a variety of award-winning ciders, beers, gins and vodkas. To enter the food hall this year, you had to wait at clearly marked two-metre distanced points and the number of visitors were counted in and out so you could walk around freely and safely maintain the distance.

I had a lovely conversation with the lady at the Ditchling Spirits Company stand, who let me sample their sweet, smooth and silky toffee vodka. Inspired by their love of Sussex and the South Downs, they initially began by making a gin that resonated their passion for the county. They use Sussex spring water and botanicals from the South Downs infused into their spirits, which are all distilled in the oldest distillery in the country.

It has become a bit of a family tradition that whenever we go to a fair at the South of England Showground, we stock up on Giggly Pig sausages. Based in Romford, Essex, all of their rare breed saddleback pigs are bred on their own farm and they only use local produce. There are over 75 different flavours of their award-winning sausages to choose from and they all have 0% added fat. My husband wanted more of the hottest ones they produce called Wow Wow and my Welsh father was very happy with his Red Dragon leek sausages.

The children had a wonderful time completing the Pumpkin Activity Trail, watching the fantastic Brighton Kite Flyers synchronised displays, seeing all the animals in the animal barn and walking around the vintage steam engines and tractors. As always, our time ended with a ride of their choice in the fairground section.

The organisation was superb as always and I know from speaking to the director of the show, that the preparation involved for it to run this year was intense and government guidelines were taken extremely seriously. It felt like a little bit of normality going back and having family fun in one of our favourite places today. I was so impressed with the set up and am already looking forward to the Winter Fair. I am curious how Santa will socially distance at the fair this year, so stay tuned……

Tickets cost £13 per Adult (16-64) and £11 per senior. Children go free.

For more information on all the shows at the South of England Showground, visit www.seas.org.uk.   

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