“What a weekend! The weather was fantastic, and record crowds visited the East of England Show.
Many of you came up to say hello and quiz me on the cooking and preparation of game, and consequently even more of you will be looking at this website for the first time. I hope you all had a good time at the show and enjoyed what was a really good weekend.
Saturday was very briefly broken up by a shower, but this did not seem to affect people’s enjoyment and the crowds around the countryside arena were three deep during my wife’s falconry display.
My demonstrations also brought in a good crowd to see game being prepared, cooked and to have a taste. Many of you asked for the of recipe of the sauces I made, and unfortunately they are not contained in the Game to Eat recipe booklets.
As promised, I’ll include them here, in my H&C blog. Over the next few days I will post the recipes and talk a little about how to use these sauces. If you were at the show, please post your comments below my blog by clicking the ‘Comments’ tab – you can leave me any questions and your comments about the show.”
John is able to see close ups, like these carp, with his bins
“The most overlooked essentiality for any angler is a pair of binoculars. So few anglers pack these regularly into their kit that I’m amazed. With a pair of bins, you get to see so much of what’s happening - so much of what’s overlooked by the normal angler.
Take one single day down at a local lake: through the binoculars, I could see carp actually feeding on spawn recently deposited by roach and bream. These great fish were actually gorging on the eggs and pushing the weeds aside in their fury to get at this food bonanza.
Then, in a sheltered bay, I saw tiny, needle fry, only millimetres long being pursued by three large common carp all closing in on thirty pounds. The carp were just hoovering up these tiny shards of silver life. They were gorging on the tiny fish and totally ignoring any other food form.
Later on that day, I could watch the swans move into the weed beds, take over from the carp and gorge on the recently laid and fertilised eggs. 20 swans were there feeding through the hours of the late afternoon and into the early evening. It was a massacre. No wonder the big bream in the lake are an ever-declining species.
It’s interesting that the Victorians realised that swans did immense harm to the health of fish stocks. It’s a fact that we seem to have overlooked a century on. Of course, we wouldn’t do without our swans but with all the other pressures on our waters in this day and age, perhaps there could be just a few too many?”
Could the humble tent replace the hotels of the Med?
"With the Pound/Euro exchange rate being so poor, it is around 25 per cent more expensive to holiday in Europe than it was last year. Brits have also suffered the worst financial downturn since the great depression. Combine these factors with many people wanting to take a greener holiday and enjoy the great outdoors, and I believe this is the reason why caravan and campsites countrywide have been brimming.
At the farm we have a 40-pitch site with 16 electric hook-ups, a toilet and shower block, dish-wash area and access to a two mile Wildlife Walk. For those staying on the caravan site, having paid to visit the Cotswold Farm Park once, they can reuse their ticket for the duration of their stay on our site. Despite snow over the Easter weekend in 2008 and a very wet summer, those hardy campers seem undeterred and our bookings for 2009 are better than ever. We have been promised a glorious summer by the powers that be in the MET office and this can only help caravan and campsite attendance nationally, if it’s true of course!"
“We have experienced the saddest of days at Hickstead this week, and our flag has been flying at half-mast over the International Arena. As many of you will know, we said goodbye to our adored dad last week, after he died peacefully at home, aged 81. We shall miss him in so very many ways, as he was of course, the very best dad in the world.
But aside from the dad we know and love, the one who was rather partial to a bottle of claret, and loved nothing better than an Antiques Roadshow omnibus on the History Channel, we have been overwhelmed with the support and condolences from those in the equestrian fraternity and further afield. He will be remembered forever in the enduring legacy he created here at Hickstead, and we have received some incredibly touching tributes. One contributor on an online forum said simply, “Douglas, thank you for allowing the rest of us to dream.”
But, and quite literally in this case, the show must go on, and Georgina and her Dragon (as dad used to call it) must be hoisted high once again. As dad impressed on us from an early age (when I was the toast of the family after a particularly triumphant Pony Club show where I fell off not once, not twice, but FOUR times!) we must get up, dust ourselves off, get back on and kick on! With the 49th running of his beloved Derby Meeting, we will do him proud.
The showground looks beautiful and, fingers crossed - although mentioning the weather before an event is strictly forbidden, and is to show organisers what muttering Macbeth before a performance is to actors - the weather looks like it will hold and the forecast is very promising.
Extra hardcore has been put down in the stablefield, the ink has dried on numerous stabling and start lists, and the time for certain members of the Showing Secretariat to “admire” certain strong, young marquee erectors from their desk with a pair of binoculars, is over. Everything is ready and we are taking one last deep breath, before the hordes descend and the madness begins.
Advanced tickets are no longer available, but you can buy them on the gate. So come down this weekend, enjoy the famous Derbies, speed and proper, and see what all the fuss is about.”
"It's been a great few days, especially because I heard how one of my demo horses, Millie, is doing - the photos say it all! Here's a lovely email from the horse's owner.
Please find attached the photos of Millie loading as promised.
You have done such an amazing job with Millie in such a short time at the demo that she is now brilliant to load and confident. Millie is so good that now Charlotte (my 11-year-old daughter) is loading Millie without any assistance. Thank you.
This week we're about to begin something REALLY exciting and a bit secret (!) with Monty Roberts, who has just arrived. More on that later this week. Stay tuned.
“We’ve had another good growing week and the weeds are coming on a treat. We’ve had our first strawberries, which is very nice indeed. The gooseberries are also coming on well and the biggest are now ready for picking. The peas and broad beans are podding, but the beans are still very small.
The Hubbard chicks are now outdoors. They seem to like the grass under their feet and are happily pecking away. The soil tray is still their favourite though. A further five have gone to a friend, leaving us with eight, as we had a dead one this week. I think it may have been trampled by the others as they have all been very healthy.
The broody is still… well, broody. Our Cream Crested Legbar cockerel, Hugo, is going to a new home where he will be the only cockerel. Here, he’s very much second fiddle to Hector, our Copper Black Maran, who’s about twice the size of Hugo and I feel a bit sorry for him. So he’s off to pastures new with a nice wee flock of Black Rocks.
Last week, I was hoping that Lyra wouldn’t have a relapse, after her joint-ill episode. Well, she did. On Monday morning, Dan came in and said she was really unwell. I had a look and had to agree – although her legs seemed fine, she was clearly sick. She wouldn’t move unless forced to and seemed to be in pain around her abdomen. Off we went to the vet again, this time for intravenous painkiller and anti-inflammatory and more antibiotics. Again, the vet wasn’t entirely sure what the problem was, but he was clearly worried. And once again, she’s better – she’s had five days of an eight day course of antibiotics and she seems recovered. She’s grazing now and is hard to catch, which I’m viewing as positive. This time, I hope she really is out of the woods.
The pigs have been reintroduced to their snak-a-ball and love it. Apparently, the ball was invented for pigs, was adopted for horses and now we’ve claimed it back for piggies. It’s a great way to keep them amused and active. The pigs are looking nice and trim – I overfed the first ones we had but have become more disciplined over the years. Actually, the ball is a great way to distract them when they squeal for food when it’s not feeding time.
We took delivery of our calcified seaweed this week so I‘ll have to sort out the application. We put “new” horse poo on the garden last year and, in retrospect, I don’t think it was a good idea, so we’ve established a muck heap, where it can rot down. The hardest bit is keeping the hens out of the beds. Our raised beds of eight years ago are now level with the path, because the hens have scraped so much soil over the side. Next time, it will be a six foot fence round the vegetable garden!”
“This coming weekend, on the 19th, 20th and 21st of June, the East of England Show will take place. This is my local show and since moving to Peterborough, I look forward to it every year. The East of England has everything for a great family day out. The show is a celebration of all things rural, including livestock, vintage tractors, show jumping, shooting, fishing, falconry and many other attractions to entertain and educate.
Food plays a large part in the show, with a food hall that contains many of the region’s best food and drink producers. There are some fantastic stalls with mouth watering foods to taste, like Bouverie Bison. Ruth Wakeling and her husband George run Bouverie Bison farm in Melton Mowbary - a place our students and the Craft Guild have both been to visit. Ruth and George diversified from beef farming to bison and red deer farming some years ago, and our visits to the farm have been intriguing as well as very informative about this unusual, but very healthy, alternative to beef.
This year, I will be doing demonstrations on game preparation and cookery at the show. The demonstrations will take place in the Countryside Alliance area as part of the Game to Eat Campaign.
The demos will be on the preparation, simple cookery and tasting of game. Venison haunch, pheasant and partridge are all on the menu and you will be able to see how to take apart and prepare your game, as well as ask questions on a one-to-one basis about any game related subject.
The East of England show is a family affair for us, and although this is my first time demonstrating at the show, this is not the case for my wife and my father in law.
For Charlotte and John of CJs Birds of Prey, this will be their fourth year of flying the falconry display team of birds of prey in the Countryside arena.
This year there will be two new additions to the team and, depending on how calm they are and how their training is progressing, a young male and female peregrine will be there for the first time. The male, called a tiercel, is a new addition to the display team and will be flying at shows this year, while the female, called a falcon, will be flown by me during the winter with the rest of the hunting team and will be bringing game to the pot over the coming season.
Falconry is a form of harvesting wild game for the table and was extensively used throughout the world before the invention of the gun. In fact, back in the middle ages your standing in society had a lot to do with the hawk or falcon you were permitted to own. The most useful of these was the goshawk and the peregrine. The goshawk was the bird of the simple Yeomen and, because of its capability of catching most game, it became known as the cook’s bird; this bird put food on the table and was good at dong it.
The peregrine was the bird of a prince, an earl or a duke and was also used to catch feathered game. Next month I will be doing more demos at the International Falconry Festival and in my blogs will explore this historical relationship between birds of prey and game thoughout the world.
The East of England show is all about promoting country life and the people that live there and make it work. The weather looks like it will be good, so pop over to the show and taste some game.”
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“You know, as an angler you sometimes forget why you involve yourself so much with the sport. Last night, I was down at Kingfishers Lake in mid-Norfolk on an absolutely golden, still, early summer evening. The lake and its surroundings shimmered. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much natural beauty.
The golden light on the still, placid bays of the lake simply lit them up with an iridescence that was fairytale. The light, too, through the great crack willows defused, golden and green, shifting and subtle - once again beyond the powers of any true description.
The fish were feeding hard; their trails of bubbles spangled in the still water and exploded in the last rays of the sun. The whole lake shone with a glitter-ball surface.
In the middle of all this beauty, two male grebes stood toe to toe, necks elongated, august with displeasure and fighting for dominance. They looked like two white daggers in the evening light.
I didn’t catch a fish; I didn’t even get a bite, but I still drove home relishing every second of this sunset wonderland. What a true balm for the soul.”
“I know this sounds like something out of a Rudyard Kipling book, but it is in fact a tale of two fillies. The moral of this story is that you never know what you’re going to get in this world.
We were at la Granderie last weekend and had quite a bit of catching up to do. Several foals have been born in the few weeks since I was last there, and the older ones are starting to change significantly. The first filly by Quite Easy is starting to come into her adult coat and, at three months of age, is quite the young lady. The second Quite Easy foal, out of our mare Idem II, is also quite an impressive little package.
But what I was most interested to see were the two products of Jaguar Mail and Alligator Fontaine.
I was not disappointed. The extraordinary thing is that the Jaguar, out of one of our chunkiest mares, is a long, lithe, and almost elfin little creature. The Alligator, on the other hand, is out of Hela de la Cour, possibly the most lightly built and bloody of our string, and she has produced a right little bull, with a neck like a prize fighter on her, and haunches to match.
No question that Jaguar, at 17.2hh, is one of the most beautiful horses I have ever seen. He’s three-quarters thoroughbred and incredibly sinuous, while Alligator is the more powerfully built classic sport horse, but he is also quite bloody, and frankly there isn’t that huge a difference between them. Given this, and the disposition of the mares, I find the result with these two foals amazing. Both fillies are lovely, but my money is on Hela’s foal. That, I think, could be very interesting indeed.
Take a look at the photos below and check out the dams and the sires. I would love to know what you think.”
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"I woke up on Monday feeling rather tired after a very busy couple of weeks. It’s all worthwhile as the horses are making good progress and their new regime with more turn out is proving very good for them, and they are looking great on the Baillie haylage and Baileys feed.
I left at 8.45am for the Links, where I galloped Jasper (Tankers Town) and Bruno (Ultimate Opposition) and then Bob (Good Sport II), Romeo (Romeo X) and Dave (Mightaswell). They are all definitely getting fitter; Dave thinks of himself as a racehorse now! My physio, Jenny, came to treat me and Bob – she put me through agony, but no pain no gain!
Richard Maxwell came to work with the horses, teaching them to follow and lead, so Bramham will be a breeze. The lorry got a good clean (thanks to my work experience girls, Emily and Sarah) so it was ready for Bramham - it was rather messy after Ely. I spent two hours doing dreaded paperwork, which had been mounting up as I am finding less and less time for it recently; still in a couple of weeks, things will get a little quieter so I can catch up. I am definitely in need of an early night.
On Tuesday, I had an early start and jumped Jasper (Tankers Town) and Bruno (Ultimate Opposition) over some corners, narrows and turns before Bramham. I schooled Kenny (Kenny), Beanie (Breeze IV) and Joe (Jorrocks Curtis) before leaving for Yorkshire; the horses are now left in the capable hands of my yard team, Tiffany and Nathan. We arrived at Bramham at 3pm and the sun was shining – it's such a beautiful setting and is always a good fun and friendly event. I rode the boys out on a hack – the course looked good and was being watered, so it could be as good as possible.
The following morning I had a rare lie in. I schooled Bruno and Jasper lightly – they were both very good - especially Jasper, who was very relaxed. I walked the courses, which were big but inviting. The hills certainly will take it out of the horses but I knew this before arriving, so I had made sure that they were both suitably fit. The course has been moved to near the old steeplechase field and now has better ground. I trotted Bruno up – he was very good. I worked him with Ian Woodhead that evening, who helped me with some ideas for the event ahead. I then went out for a meal at a local pub with my friend Rachel and her sister Lucy and friend Darren – we enjoyed seriously good food!
Thursday started well after another good night’s sleep. I was up early to work Bruno at the arenas – he was excellent and I couldn't wait for the event to start. Jasper was great too; he’s really on form so I'm delighted. I walked the XC course with Daisy (Dick) and Owen (Moore) and several dogs. We all agree on routes and have decided to go long at the corners, as there are plenty of questions out there. Bruno looked beautiful for his test - many thanks to Tristan, who helps me at events.
Bruno worked in very well and went into the main arena in a relaxed and obedient manner, which is a great sign as many are very hot in this arena so this bodes very well for the future. We did a very good test, except the changes were late behind, but other than that it was the best ever. I think the judges were a little harsh – they scored a 56, but it was not bad for a first 3*. In the evening I went to a cocktail party, which is always good fun and I had a reasonably late night.
On Friday I worked Jasper early; he was very settled, so I had my fingers crossed for later on. I jumped Bruno too; he was good, but perhaps not quite focused. There were lots of people around the jumps, and he loves to look around and to be noticed. My parents arrived and so did Jane Bailey, Bruno's owner, both with their caravans. I found it quite amusing watching them put up the awnings! I decided not to work Jasper in for very long before his test – what’s important is keeping him settled. Ian helped me again – he gives me great confidence and I love his sense of humour, even though he winds me up! Jasper did a lovely test, slightly quick in the rein back but the rest was super and we scored a 50, which put me into sixth place and six marks from the leader. I went out for a lovely Italian meal and had an early night ready for my big day tomorrow.
I slept well again, and woke up at 8am on Saturday. The first horse’s XC is at 9.30am, so there was enough time for breakfast and a walk. I always have an appetite – the day I don't, you know I'm really nervous! I watched the young riders who did a good job, and then a few of the seniors who didn't make it look so easy.
As both horses are not so good to start, Richard Maxwell had kindly come up to help me. He arrived and set to work with Bruno, who was fairly lively. I warmed him up for about 15-minutes; he was definitely quieter than normal, although he knew something exciting was happening. Richard led me to the box and he started brilliantly. He was strong, but good to the first three fences - the third being an enormous parallel. He was a little green at the first water, but no more than I had expected. The next fence was a combination fence – he jumped the first well and then took a stride out at the second, which left us unbalanced at the third so unfortunately we had a run out. We jumped the next two very well, then came to a bullfinch, which he ballooned and then ran past the second element so I decided to jump the next few easier ones and pull up. He needs more mileage, and it was maybe a little too soon but I've no doubt in his ability. It was a bit disappointing but he is definitely a horse for the future.
I waited all day for Jasper’s round. Again, Richard helped before I got on and Jasper looked very calm. I warmed up as I had with Bruno – jumping some angles and practicing some turns, which is what I usually do. Richard then walked me around and all credit to him, Jasper started better than ever. It was very relieving! I loved the course, Jasper is getting very quick now and could've easily been 25 seconds inside the time, but I slowed him down as we have the next day to consider. A good clear left me in fourth place. In the evening, we had a BBQ and went to a party; again, a good night and not an early one!
The next day, I was up very early. Tristan is very efficient and was up at 5am, so I was close on. The trot up was at 7.45am – not very civilised for us, but all credit to the organisers for managing to put so many classes on. Jasper trotted well, as usual. I walked the show jumping course, which seemed good but the poles are a little light. I was very confident, as I have not had a pole down so far this year. Typical! Jasper jumped superbly, but just touched one and it came down. Luckily, we still moved up a place for third. It was a great result and we’re back on top form – Jasper is a champion. I watched the under 25s and some of the mix and match and then we left for our four hour trip home. We were back by 6pm and enjoyed a BBQ with my sister and family. I had an early night at last – I was very much in need of one!"