We attended the East Anglian Game and Country Fair in Norwich over the weekend, which was something different. It was partly due to our interest in finding out more about wild food and other country pursuits, and DJ’s desire to witness the…er… ferret racing advertised in the flyer…
And I have to say that it was excellent fun. The show was enormous, with everything from duck herding to falconry displays, and luckily the weather was fantastic, which made an awful difference. It’s never much fun trudging around these things in torrential rain. People took their dogs along – which took the opportunity to cool down by jumping in a nearby pond – while others even brought their ferrets with them in little harnesses. And I thought City people were weird!
Some of the demonstrations were fascinating, if a little out there. Carroll Rawlings specialises in making pigeon decoys – basically plastic pigeons on sticks – which are used to entice pigeons, the bane of farmers, out into the open so they can be ‘controlled’ and then taken home for the pot. He talked us through how he makes them – often using real pigeon feathers for the wings – while setting them out on little sticks around the field.
Simon Whitehead’s ferreting display was also an eye opener. I suppose I’d been under the impression, being a complete townie, that using ferrets to chase rabbits from their warrens was cruel, so I was a bit dubious about it all. Thankfully the demonstrator wasn’t able to use real rabbits due to Health and Safety regulations, and so substituted toy ones! But I had no idea that the conventional way to deal with rabbits now as an agricultural pest is to gas them – something which is not only cruel as it takes time to work, but is also indiscriminate and potentially dangerous to livestock too. So I guess ferreting – done properly – is much more humane and better for the environment.
In ferreting the ferrets chase the rabbit from their warrens so that the ferreter can catch them in a net and humanely dispatch them. The only problem is that occasionally the ferret decides to kill the rabbit itself, tucks in and then falls asleep underground. In which case the unhappy ferreter has to get out his spade and dig the ferret up – which thanks to modern technology can be found electronically by the ‘ferret locator’…!
Meanwhile I’m beginning to wonder if DJ isn’t missing out on his vocation as a poacher. He took advantage of one of the ‘have a go’ stalls to try out clay pigeon shooting for the first time. We had to queue up for ages in the hot sun as this was a very popular stall. But the tutor was knocked out with DJ’s skills – he didn’t miss a single one of the ten clays – and left the guy speechless. Apparently he was only the second pupil that day who had managed to hit them all. Smart Alec!
We finished up the weekend watching Winston the Singing Farmer and Bernese mountain dogs dragging carts, having lost our small change on a racing ferret by the name of Pepsi, and feeling at home from home surrounded by these delightful eccentrics. Bliss!