This year we were blown away by the birds of prey on display with North Devon Falconry. My personal favourite was this wonderful Bengal Eagle Owl with its mesmerising orange eyes. Is it just me, or does he look really disdainful? Oh, and by the way, he was pretty huge.
His cute smaller cousin, the imaginatively named Little Owl, had us oo-ing and aa-ing when they brought him out to sit on his perch. He really was so very tiny by comparison with all the other birds of prey.
The little Kestrel was reluctant to sit on his perch. Of all the birds, he was the one who wanted to plonk down on the grass. Perhaps he felt uncomfortable with how many of us were looking at him.
I mean no disrespect, but this saker falcon made me think of the Duke of Edinburgh. Anyone else see the resemblance? No, just me?
Whatever ... he was glorious.
And they looked like samurai when they were all hooded and booted and ready for business.
But this Harris Hawk really was the king of the bunch. He was huge, with a very threatening golden beak. The WonderDog was foolish enough to woof at him, but was soon whooshed into submission when he spread his wings and screeched back.
Next up was a ferret race. Yes, a ferret race. You read correctly. Down here in Devon ferret racing is a thing. You could buy a raffle ticket to support the colour-run of your favourite ferret. Sadly none of us were sufficiently canny judges of ferret-form to choose the yellow run, where the little blond chap romped home to first place way ahead of the rest of the field.
We were amazed by the exquisite blooms of the Devon Orchid Society.
And then we went on to flunk out at guessing the age of this sweet little Belted Galloway calf.
Back in the flower marquee I made a resolution that whatever happens in my garden next year I simply have to grow some of these wonderful Cosmos flowers. I'd loved the plum and purple coloured ones that Emma Bridgewater had been growing in her pottery garden up in Stoke-on-Trent last week, but these lovely pink flowers clinched the deal.
Aren't they pretty?
And how about some bees for your very own hive? I'd so love to have a bunch of these chaps living in my garden producing their wonderful honeycombs for us. We stopped by for a chat with the lovely Tiverton bee keepers group who'd brought them along.
Or how about a de luxe, 5 Star bug hotel? I've got a much smaller, humbler version in my London garden, but this one totally blows it out of the water.
I loved this shot of the handler and the bull standing close together in the show ring and looking like the perfect two-player team. The man seems so comfortable with his charge, and the bull seems so accepting of his handler.
And then out in the back paddock, where they take the animals to rest and wait for their turn in the show-ring, I saw this boy sitting beside a fabulous bull. The animal was lying down, panting a little in the heat, and the boy seemed to be watching over him really carefully. I didn't ask for the back story, but it struck me that perhaps this magnificent creature had been hand-reared by the boy or given to him as a present and a first personal project in farming. Whatever the way of it the child was completely comfortable with the animal and attentive to its needs.
And here are a few Ruby Red Devons, an ancient breed that lives here in the South West of England, for no other reason than because they're magnificent.
Of course they had magnificent other animals there too. This fine looking lady called out to me to have her portrait taken, and you have to admit she's a sheep with a really intelligent expression. She totally knows her grass from her thistles.
Maxi enjoyed meeting the other animals too. He had a whole lot of excited barking to do, but I think he struck up a rapport with this lovely, gentle ewe. With his woolly coat she may have mistaken him for one of her own.
This year they had a super collection of antique vehicles. I loved the Morris Minor vans. I have fond memories of my grandfather driving one. It was in British Racing green, and he used to drive his dogs around in the back. He was a great man for the dogs, my Grandpa.
In fact my grandpa's van was pretty much like the one in the photo below. I loved how the couple who'd brought it had set up shop out the back with camping chairs, table and parasol to make the most of their day out. They'd got a good pitch in the show ground and come with picnic lunch and a full compliment of hot and cold drinks. All so very British.
Emi, on the other hand, thought that this tank was totally the business. Each to his own, I guess.
Sitting in the shade of a tree we had some gourmet wild boar burgers for lunch.
And then went off to marvel at the very well trained dogs doing the obstacle course. They really were impressive. The WonderDog looked on silently. I haven't worked out whether he was impressed by how well they followed their trainers' commands or disdainful of their need to please and obey. The WonderDog tends to be very much his own person, with a keen eye out for what's in it for him if he deigns to comply with my requests. Dangle a juicy prawn close to his nose and he can sit, stay, give a paw and roll over with the best of them. Minus the prawn, however, it's a very different story.
I was impressed by the thorough work-out that the trainers got, chasing around the arena to get to the right place at the right time and tell their dog what to do next. They were working out big time, and it struck me that it was a lot more fun than working one of those static bikes in the gym.
There weren't any rabbits to be seen this year as there's a nasty rabbit lurgy on the loose at the moment.
There were loads of vintage tractors, which had been lovingly restored to look as good as they did on the first day they'd been driven home from the showroom.
So there you have it: something for everyone. These country shows take place up and down the country all summer. They're great places to go with young children who may not get much opportunity to enjoy all the wonderful animals anywhere else. I've always found the exhibitors to be very friendly and willing to share their vast knowledge if I asked them any questions. It's an all-round great day out. Go and enjoy!
All the best for now,