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Northumberland (Hexam) AGS/SRGC Show, 2005

Northumberland AGS/SRGC Show, 2005  Hexham is sufficiently close to Newcastle–upon–Tyne for its locals to be supportive of either the Falcons or the Magpies so the beating of the former by a team from Paris and the latter by team from Birmingham could have dampened spirits in the sporting cockpit that is the north east of England. No doubt the Scots might have had something to crow about especially as the eleven-a-side team was reduced to eight by the expedient of setting about each other. So, the incomers amongst us might have had cause to wonder whether the Show would fulfil its spring promise especially as the venue was the town’s Sport and Leisure Centre, but no, the only fisticuffs were of the metaphorical kind and the judges fairly and squarely decided the only beatings.

The Sports Hall at the Wentworth Leisure Centre is cavernous and holds with ease the 168 Classes that comprise the Northumberland Show, but as is often the case with caves, the quality of the light might occasion the production of metres by the umpires in a county cricket match and the consequent offering of the light to the batsmen. Once ones eyes had accustomed themselves to the different light levels one only had to allow for the shadow from the sodium lamps that cast a strange brownness onto flowers and foliage alike creating a sort of virosis.

Paraquilegia anemonoides Notwithstanding, the Show proved a scintillating event with plants from four continents displayed in colourful competition. Those with a sporting inclination could have discerned multiple entrant Decathletes from East Anglia and Heptathletes from the south together with long-distance runners with slow growing specimens, sprinters able to produce a prize winner in just a few years, heavyweights entering containers, novices and veterans alike. The competitive arena was awash with colour from Primulas, Trilliums and Dionysias. There were blue and white Hepaticas, purple and red Corydalis and a rainbow of tints and hues that brought forth gasps of admiration from the spectators. Olfactory senses were delighted by the fragrance of some and puzzled, if not offended, by others, Arisaema and Fritillaria being the culprits in this field.

Representatives of the Celtic nations upheld the international status of the Northumberland Show and one of the delights of such shows is to be able to see their plants to hear their views and to share their experiences. In sporting terms, we were bowled over, hit for six or knocked out by the excellence of it all. There were trainers to talk with, pundits to consult and coaches to learn from backed up by the ‘show followers’, the nurserymen and women, who provide ample opportunity for punters to spend their winnings Of course, in the end it is the plants that are the real winners but without the entrants, the staff and the spectators the show would not succeed.

Peter Cunnington