Carriage driving, tug-of-war and dogs galore at Lowther
INTEREST in country pursuits is soaring in popularity if the huge turnout at the weekend’s Lowther show is any yardstick.
Thousands of people filled the sprawling Lowther estate grounds for a two-day showcase of country life. In recent years, Lowther show has expanded from its carriage driving roots under organiser Countryman Fairs Limited, based in Staffordshire.
As well as the horse driving trials, it offers a roster of events and attractions from a food village to a folk music festival, among others. More than 250 exhibition stands sell everything from tweeds to rare malt whiskies, 4x4s and luxury dog blankets.
Visitors on Saturday and Sunday were entertained by horses, hounds and gundogs alongside ponies, falcons, ferrets and llamas.
Children enjoyed all manner of fun from bungee trampolines to bouncy castles and catapults.
One of the big crowdpleasers was Joseph’s Amazing Racing Pigs, featuring six rare breed porkers taking part in a hilarious “Ham National” accompanied by a highly excitable commentary from the pigs’ West Country owners.
The carriage driving trials, established in 1973, remain the centrepiece of Lowther, with local equestrian legends competing against top riders from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man. Events includes obstacles, the marathon and the Lowther derby. A separate driven dressage event was held on Friday.
Armathwaite-based George Bowman IV, aged 53, helped organise the horse trials which this year included a new Klondyke obstacle up a steep grassy banking. He said: “It was a huge success and a record crowd. It was a bit quieter on the Sunday because of the weather but the carriage driving went really well.” His father, George Bowman Snr, aged 83, of Penrith, won the dressage section.
Also competing was George IV’s brother, Barnaby Bowman, of Castle Carrock, who was third in the marathon. Robert Bowman, of Penrith, was fifth from a field of 11 with four young horses.
Asked to explain the skill involved in carriage driving, George Bowman IV said: “You are trying to control all four horses in unison, when one is hard enough. You are pulling a carriage and the occupants weigh a tonne. The marathon alone is 10 miles long, over hilly and muddy terrain. I compare it to like jumping out of an aeroplane and then trying to land in a dustbin!”
The national carriage driving championship takes place in Gloucestershire, but it’s Lowther that they all want to win, he said.
Appleby’s Mark Carruthers, aged 47, got fifth in the dressage on Friday, fourth in the marathon and was second fastest over the bridge during the weekend, taking him up to third place overall. But on Sunday disaster struck and he was eliminated after his leading horse ducked out of railings.
Mark said: “In the challenge on Sunday, there were three or four points between third and first and we could have trotted round for a safe third or just go for it.
“It was all or nothing and I decided to go for all. It was my first year driving a horse four and my first go at a challenge like that, but otherwise it was a brilliant event. Everything was fantastic and there were world class obstacles.”
In the inaugural tug-of-war contest, a team representing Keswick Rugby Club won the £200 prize. In a tense finale which could have gone either way, George Holme, James Benson, Peter Weightman, Mike Tait, Jane Clarke, Lewis Thompson and Hannah Hinkley were victorious.
Leading the front of the pull was stocky stand-off Lewis Thompson, aged 24, of Keswick. He said: “It’s ridiculously hard, it burns and we had to pull uphill.
“But it was a great effort by the team and to celebrate we’ll be having a few refreshments deep into the night.”
With dogs galore at the show, from Irish wolfhounds to lurchers, terriers and trail hounds, Janet Ardley of Cumbria Dog Training, Bampton, had a a steady string of inquiries.
She runs Cumbria Dog Training with husband Paul and daughter Fran while her other daughter, Rachel, lent a hand at Lowther.
Janet works on basic obedience and Fran, a gamekeeper, trains gundogs. Janet said: “It’s been a lovely sunny day, really positive with lots of people wanting advice and lots of dogs and lots of bookings being taken.”
The Fell Pony Society display team wowed the crowds to the theme tune of Chariots of Fire. Society council member and prolific Fell pony author Sue Millard, of Tebay, provided a commentary on the team which was established three years ago. “Aside from the Fell Pony Society’s own breed show, Lowther is the biggest event in our annual calendar. This year we added a musical ride so that they do a quadrille to music,” she said.
A variety of stalls allowed visitors to test their marksmanship. These ranged from a simulated clay pigeon shooting experience using only computers, to having a go at the real thing.
Ian Riddell, owner of Bessy Beck Trout Fishery, Newbiggin-on-Lune, exhibited in the fishing village alongside local angling clubs. Mr Riddell said: “Interest in fly-fishing waned for a little while but I think part of it is that there’s more for young people to do indoors now, but all sports are finding that. There are more young people starting it now and we do fly-fishing lessons at Bessy Beck and seem to be getting lots more interest in those.”