Mid Wales

Diary from Royal Welsh Show 2010

Thursday, 1715

Image caption The muddy main ring

It's been another great day here in Llanelwedd and, as always, I feel slightly depressed that it's all over for another year.

It's hard work (honestly), but it's great meeting the friends and old colleagues I only ever tend to see at the show.

One of the best things about the show is the gossip and rumour you hear in hotel bars in the evenings, and this helps reporters pick up tips for stories at the event.

One such rumour about a young man turned out to be true.

He suffered a nasty injury when he went to take a bite on a burger at the show on Tuesday evening.

St John Wales said he dislocated his jaw and was taken to hospital.

It said his jaw locked open as he took a bite on the burger, which he'd bought before entering the showground.

He was taken to hospital by ambulance, and has been one of 500 casualties treated by St John here.

David Gardner, St John commissioner for mid Wales, said: "The doctor tried to put it (the jaw) back into place twice, but it was severely locked open."

At the pre-show on Sunday, five volunteers saved a 59-year-old man's life after he suffered a heart attack at the showground. St John does a wonderful job.

Meanwhile, the cost of improving the main ring at the show has risen from £360,000 to £500,000.

The ring is the main focus of the show, so even though the cost has escalated it will be money well spent.

The ring turned into a mud bath again this year after we had a series of heavy rain showers on Tuesday.

The show's board of management chair, Dai Lewis, gave an insight into the scale of the project.

He said the original cost of £360,000 had been an estimate, and although he gave a new figure of up to £500,000, he said the final total wasn't known at the moment.

Mr Lewis said the entire ring would be dug up after the show and 3ft of soil would be scraped off the top. However, this couldn't be done until the show's society had received planning permission from the local authority.

A drainage system will also be installed, along with gravel and stoned areas called soak aways, so when it rains the water can escape immediately.

A hard wearing type of grass will also be laid, and all this in time for next year's show.

Mr Lewis had to defend a series of difficult questions at the afternoon press conference about the main ring, but he handled them well.

He has a wonderfully deep and clear voice, not unlike that of 1970s TV funny man and fellow Welshman, Windsor Davies.

He was asked why the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery and the JCB dancing diggers were on the same bill, even though they had both helped turn the ring into a mud bath.

He also defended the decision to hire acts, such as the dancing diggers, which have no links with farming.

He said a survey showed that 60% of show-goers were not interested in horses and agriculture, so they had to be catered for.

He was also asked if it was wise to allow the King's Troop to fire their guns so close to a number of buildings around the ring, including mine at the BBC.

When we're inside and the guns are firing it does feel a bit like we're under attack.

Mr Lewis said there had never been any complaints.

Meanwhile, a 35-year-old mother and her 12-year-old daughter had a lucky escape last night when they were involved in a collision with a motorised buggy on the showground.

The incident happened at about 9pm and the pair were taken to Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny, but they were discharged later. They received minor injuries.

Mr Lewis said the vehicle had become stuck in first gear, but the show's health and safety officer was investigating the matter.

The attendance figure today was 51,622, 4,500 up on the same time last year. The overall total for the four days was 230,766, the fourth highest total in Royal Welsh history, and more than 10,000 up on 2009.

Yesterday's final attendance figure was 70,613, a single-day show record.

The show's popularity and appeal knows no bounds, and that at a time when other similar events are scaling down or being cancelled.

Even though we had more than 230,000 visitors, Dyfed-Powys Police said they only made nine arrests.

Ch Supt Steve Hughson said they had been for minor public order offences, and two were for drugs. Seven crimes were reported.

He said it was a "miracle" the crime rate was so low at such a large event.

Ch Supt Hughson said arrests were down significantly on previous years.

Thursday, 1030

Image caption The main ring is looking a bit worse for wear

The final day is here. After a huge build up we're preparing to call it a day for another year.

We're basking in sunshine here and it looks like the rain will hold off, which will be a fitting end to another great Royal Welsh.

In the main ring the final horse classes are being judged.

Wednesday, 1745

Image caption A Welsh pony in the main ring earlier

You wouldn't think we lived in a time of economic uncertainty, with the threat of savage cuts hanging over us.

It appears that visitors to the Royal Welsh are withdrawing a total of about £325,000 per day from bank cash machines at the showground.

Show treasurer David Powell revealed the astonishing figure during the afternoon press conference, adding that it had risen from a total of £250,000 a day a few years ago.

He added that Wednesday's attendance was on the verge of breaking the single-day visitor record as well.

The current highest total is 69,832 from 2008, and today's figure at 1500 BST stood at 68,281. The final total will be known later, so we could have a new record by the end of play today.

Concerns were again raised about the state of the main ring.

Show director Harry Fetherstonhaugh likened it to the infamous World War I battlefield, The Somme.

Its battle scared appearance means it will not be used for a display by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery this evening. They will perform in the smaller cattle ring.

Mr Fetherstonhaugh also dismissed a question from my goodself, relating to a rumour I'd heard about extending the show from four days to five.

He joked that he'd be "too knackered" to work an extra day, adding that it would place extra burden on the already diligent stewards, other volunteers and staff.

Apparently, extending the length of the show has been mooted in the past, but always, in the end, dismissed.

Meanwhile, chairman of the livestock committee, Terry Clarke, said proposals to control record numbers of animal entries would be put before the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society in September.

In another question from me (I'm earning my pay today), Mr Clarke was unwilling to reveal some of the suggestions put forward to solve what he described was a "brilliant problem".

A decision about how to cope with the entries will be made in January.

Chairman of the board of management, Dai Lewis, confessed that after yesterday's heavy rain showers he feared there would not be a show today.

But he added that we'd been "blessed with a beautiful day".

It was another fantastic showing of Welsh horses.

I hail from the old county of Montgomeryshire, so I was delighted to hear that a fellow "Monty" was successful in the Welsh cob classes today.

Julie Evans's Haighmoor Glain was the overall winner in the class. Nice one.

Wednesday, 1330

Image caption Dr Natasha deVere is working on the project

Research being carried out by the National Botanic Garden of Wales could be used by detectives in the future to crack murder cases.

The garden in Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire, has been building a DNA database of plants in Wales for two-and-a-half years.

It's a mammoth undertaking and researchers don't know when it'll be completed.

But once it is finished it's possible the resource could have endless purposes, said Dr Natasha deVere, head of conservation and research at the garden.

She said police might use it as a forensic tool to examine plant debris left at a murder scene, for instance.

Something as small and as delicate as part of a leaf, or a dusting of pollen, could be analysed and then identified using the database. This could provide officers with some vital evidence.

Dr deVere said customs officers could also use the resource in their work.

She said it was such a unique scheme that people were thinking up fresh applications for it almost on a daily basis.

The project was mentioned at a cake cutting ceremony to celebrate the botanic garden's 10th anniversary.

The garden's had its ups and downs, but there is optimism for the future.

What's more, the biggest garden in Wales has teamed up with the biggest legend in Welsh rugby - Gareth Edwards.

Garden director Dr Rosetta Plummer said ex-Cardiff, Wales and British and Irish Lions' star Edwards had been appointed its honorary president.

Edwards said he was flattered to be approached and delighted to accept the appointment.

Image caption The National Botanic Garden of Wales' 10th birthday cake was a work of art

Dr deVere also showed me a rare cotoneaster plant from the Great Orme in Llandudno, which is indigenous to Wales.

Elsewhere, the world shearing championships are reaching their climax.

We'll know soon who is the best in the world with a pair of clippers.

The weather has certainly picked up and it's a beautiful day here in Llanelwedd.

As Buddy Holly once sang: "The sun is out, the sky is blue, there's not a cloud to spoil the view."

In the same song he also mentioned something about raining, but I'll ignore that for now.

Wednesday, 0930

Image caption The main ring is looking a bit worse for wear

It's the part of the week most people have been waiting for - cobs day.

More than 60,000 people are expected here today, and some of the finest examples of the breed will be on display.

Judging in the pony classes started shortly before 0800 BST in the main ring, and as I write this I can hear the crowds cheering on the horses and their handlers.

Sadly, the ring is starting to break up quite badly.

We had a series of heavy rain showers here last night, but so far this morning it has been dry and bright.

But spirits are high and it'll take more than a few droplets of rain to put the visitors off.

Later today, the Farmers' Union of Wales will unveil the first winner of a new award named in honour of farming journalist Bob Davies, who died earlier this year.

It recognises people who have helped raised the awareness of agriculture in the media.

Tuesday, 1745

Image caption Can I dig it? No you can't... the JCB dancing diggers have been performing in the very wet main ring

Show director Harry Fetherstonhaugh has raised concerns about the state of the main ring after a day of heavy rain showers.

Mr Fetherstonhaugh said the ring had "taken a bit of a hammering" following displays by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, the JCB dancing diggers and horse section judging.

But Mr Fetherstonhaugh said the damage was restricted "to the surface" of the grass at the moment, and providing it was dry tonight everything should be fine for tomorrow.

However, BBC Wales weather forecaster Derek Brockway says heavy rain is expected tonight, and people should bring their wellies with them tomorrow if they're heading to Llanelwedd.

For many, Wednesday is the main day of the week, with thousands of visitors expected here to see the judging of the Welsh cobs.

Image caption Hello, hello, hello... Katie Vavere-Davies and Rhys Jones with Ch Insp Martin Tavener at the show

The show ring has been re-laid twice in the last three years due to bad weather.

Despite today's deluge, 55,878 visitors crammed into the showground, 3,200 up on 2009's figure for Tuesday.

Interestingly, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWAS), which runs the event, has seen its membership rise by 2,000, to 18,000, over the last two days.

Family membership costs £95 for up to two adults and three children, and a single will set you back £60.

In the shearing shed, the world championships are hotting up, and six shearers will battle it out in tomorrow's final.

To give you an impression of how good these guys are, one Royal Welsh official said he'd watched a shearer from New Zealand clip 14 sheep in 11 minutes.

And the smallest town in Britain, Llanwrtyd Wells, is hosting the competitors from 28 countries and their supporters - 450 people in all.

Meanwhile, I've met two inspiring teenagers at the Dyfed-Powys Police stand.

Katie Vavere-Davies and Rhys Jones, both aged 17, are police cadets with the force.

The cadet scheme started a few months ago, so I was keen to find out how some of the new recruits were coping.

Both Katie and Rhys are typical teenagers, but they have made their minds up at an early age to spend their lives serving the public, and keeping us safe. They both want to go on and become full-time bobbies.

Rhys told me that he wanted to show people there was more to teenagers than "hoodies", and it's obvious both of them are enjoying their experience with the police immensely.

Ch Insp Martin Tavener, who has been working with Katie and Rhys, says a number of cadets on the scheme are showing they have what it takes to be police officers.

Tuesday, 1300

Image caption Chef Bryn Williams is promoting Welsh lamb and beef at the show

The brollies are up. I was just caught in a heavy shower, but at least I can sit at my desk and dry out.

The thousands of visitors here are not so lucky, but people don't appear to be too downhearted by the change in conditions.

I'd been to photograph celebrity Welsh chef Bryn Williams, who was running a cookery demonstration at the Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales) stand.

He seems a nice guy. I chatted to him about his restaurant in London. I enjoyed a meal there last December with my family to celebrate my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. It was a special time.

Don't get the wrong idea, I don't make a habit of visiting top UK eating houses - not on my wages.

Earlier, I visited the Royal Mail stand where I spoke to postman David Power. He was bitten, on the bottom, by a dog while on his rounds, and his bosses were launching a campaign to urge people to control their pets.

I was told that geese and, get this, ducks were sometimes pests as well. Ducks, I couldn't believe it.

Dogs biting postmen and women is a cliché and is as old as the hills. It's usually made a bit of a joke of, but it's not funny for the dozens injured every year in Wales while doing their job.

Image caption We've had a few heavy showers at the show

Elsewhere, there was praise today for five St John Ambulance volunteers who saved the life of a 59-year-old heart attack victim at the showground on Sunday.

Chief nursing officer for St John Wales, Hazel Cook, began resuscitating the man before David Gardner, regional commissioner for west Wales, used a defibrillator.

He then continued resuscitating for about 15 minutes before paramedics arrived.

Tuesday, 0850

Judging has started in the horse sections in the main ring as we prepare for another busy day at the Royal Welsh.

Last night the opening ceremony was held for the world sheep shearing championships being held here this year.

I managed to catch the climax of the event, a rousing rendition of the Welsh national anthem sung by a local baritone, which was greeted with a huge round of applause.

Twenty-eight nations are competing for the crown, and according to those in the know New Zealand are the team to beat.

Monday, 1800

Image caption He's behind you...The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery's guns made the place shudder

As the first day of Royal Welsh 2010 comes to a close, I thought I'd share a few observations.

There was no danger of me falling asleep at my desk in the humid conditions - I've been on the go all day, and I finally managed to interview the Chinese government official, Zhou Xiaoming.

He was a nice guy, and had clearly enjoyed the show and seeing the animals.

He was inundated with requests for interviews from the media, and I must confess I felt a tinge of excitement as we all gathered around him, eager to find out more about the plans for, potentially, the biggest ever Welsh lamb export deal.

Who was going to ask the first question? It needed to be precise, relevant and to the point, but when it came it was a complete let down, and went something like this: "Minister, have you ever been to the show before?"

Noooooooo. Ask him the one about the multi million-pound Welsh lamb deal - I screamed from inside. In retrospect it is funny, but the culprit will remain nameless.

Image caption A giant cactus in the flower and vegetable tent. What a whopper

I've also been round the vegetable and flower tent. I'm not particularly interested in plants or root vegetables, but I was fascinated by a couple of huge cabbages and a massive cactus.

Another highlight has been the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery. The noise from their guns was a bit loud though and, I must admit, stopped me from entering a sun-induced slumber.

The person at the other end of my desk, BBC weather supremo Derek Brockway, nearly hit the ceiling.

Elsewhere on the showground people screamed, babies cried and car alarms went off - it was quite a jolt.

Finally, the attendance figure today was 52,448, nearly 1,000 down on last year. However, it was still the third highest ever attendance for a Monday.

Monday, 1220

Image caption It's getting busy, and hot, at the Royal Welsh in Llanelwedd

It's hotting up in every sense of the word at the Royal Welsh.

My concerns about the weather earlier were misguided because it's a beautiful day here.

However, rather worryingly BBC Wales weather guru Derek Brockway tells me this is the best it's going to get. He says rain is expected tomorrow, with scattered showers for the rest of the week.

Visitors are packing in too, and it's difficult to manoeuvre along the show's narrow avenues for people.

I've been out and about this morning. I started with a breakfast meeting at Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales), where officials there hosted a trade delegation from the Chinese embassy in London.

First Minister Carwyn Jones is holding talks with the delegation to discuss the possibility of extending a deal to export Welsh lamb.

China has a population of about 1.3bn, so is doesn't take a genius to work out what a big deal this is for farming in Wales.

I made attempts to speak to Chinese Minister Counsellor Zhou Xiaoming at the breakfast meeting, who is leading the delegation, but he was extremely busy. Hopefully, I'll have a word with him later.

He is accompanied by a crew from the state-run China Central Television (CCTV).

The new food hall
Image caption The new food hall looks an impressive building

A member of the delegation proudly told me that China's CCTV was to her country what the BBC was to the UK. Not quite the same, I thought, but I understood what she meant.

I also popped along to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new £1.6m food hall. It was opened by Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones, who was also at the breakfast meeting earlier.

She said the Welsh Assembly Government would sponsor the hall for the next three years to the tune of £270,000.

It is a wonderful building and stands well in the avenue, not far from the sheep shearing pavilion.

Monday, 0750

At a time of uncertainty in Britain and around the world, you can always rely on the Royal Welsh Show.

For me, the old event has a way of reminding people about a bygone era in farming, a slower pace of life, but it also has the ability of bringing that face-to-face with the new, vibrant modern era.

Image caption Queues as people and livestock arrive at the showground

It's all here at Llanelwedd, and for four days.

On the eve of this year's event, show president Dai Jones said the show "brings people together", and that goes for the press corps too. I only see some of my erstwhile friends at the show. I'm a sad case.

Dai also said it was the "greatest honour" of his life to be Royal Welsh president for 2010.

He is representing his beloved Ceredigion, which is the featured county this year.

As part of his role as president, Dai and his team have raised thousands of pounds for the show through a series of fund-raising events in Ceredigion.

Dai Llanilar, as he is more commonly known, the Llanilar being the village where he hails from near Aberystwyth, is an award-winning singer, a presenter on the Welsh language TV channel S4C, and he presents his own Sunday night show on BBC Radio Cymru.

Image caption Dai 'Llanilar' Jones is Royal Welsh Show president for 2010

He is probably the best known president for years, and there's no doubt he will bring his own inimitable charm to the role.

The one thing that might spoil Dai's week in the spotlight is our traditional Welsh summer weather - rain.

The forecast doesn't look good for the early part of the week, but the show is prepared and has a decent drainage system and tracking for the field car parks.

The rain has dampened spirits at two of the last three shows, but here's hoping for a sunny second half of the week.

Image caption The main ring is looking a bit worse for wear

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