Mid Wales

Royal Welsh Show 2011: 226,407 visitors in four days

A Welsh Cob stallion
Image caption The Welsh Cob stallions were greeted with cheers and applause in the main ring at the Royal Welsh Show on Wednesday

More than 226,000 people visited the Royal Welsh Show in Powys over the four days of the 2011 event.

As the show closed, figures showed it had the ninth highest total in its history despite some poor weather.

The four-day figure of 226,407 was above the five-year average of 223,124, but did not quite match the record set in 2006 of 240,140.

Meanwhile, show officials said they were delighted with new surface in the main ring which had stood up well.

The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society's chairman of the board, David Lewis, said he was delighted it had proved a success after the rain turned the ring to mud last year.

The society spent more than £200,000 on improvements to the ring's drainage system, and Mr Lewis joked that the only sad faces on the showground belonged to wellington sellers.

Image caption Ed Bailey (left) and Emyr Jones (right) with HCC staff at the cook-off

Another person smiling was the show's lady ambassador, Gwenno Griffith, from Llanwnda, Caernarfon, whose partner proposed marriage at the event on Tuesday, and she accepted.

Meanwhile, the presidents of Wales' two farming unions went head-to-head in a burger-making contest on Thursday.

Ed Bailey of NFU Cymru and Emyr Jones of the Farmers' Union of Wales clashed in the kitchen on the stand of the red meat promotions agency, Hybu Cig Cymru. Both men did their best and the contest ended in a draw.

Among the Royal Welsh visitors this year were 690 from abroad, including countries such as the Republic of Ireland, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and one person from the African country of Mail.

The chairman of the Institute of Directors in Wales, Gareth Williams, has been appointed to work on the Welsh Government's Working Smarter programme.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Alun Davies said the aim of the scheme was to reduce the administrative burden on farmers so they could focus on farming.

He said Mr Williams would provide a "fresh pair of eyes".

The announcement was made at the show, and was welcomed by the Farmers' Union of Wales, which said it was looking forward to receiving more details on how Mr Williams intended to engage with the farming industry.

Mr Williams, who is also a member of the board of trustees of the National Museums of Wales and chairman of the Marie Curie advisory board for Wales, has had an international career in the retail and service industries in the UK, the United States and the Middle East.

Red tape

While form-filling is part of modern farming, some have complained there is too much red tape.

Mr Williams will look at ways of streamlining certain processes, and Mr Davies hopes his initial report will be available in the new year.

Mr Davies said Mr Williams did not have a farming background, and he wanted someone with a "fresh pair of eyes".

The minister said: "This is one of my key priorities. I'm committed to driving not only this programme but much further internal change through government and the industry."

Image caption Gareth Williams brings his business background, with a career in the retail and service sectors

He added that he wanted to find better ways of "doing the business of government" to free up farmers "to be farmers".

A similar review in England, contained in the MacDonald report, has already taken place and UK Government ministers are considering its recommendations.

Meanwhile, Aberystwyth sheep farmer Aled Llyr Thomas was named the first winner of the Brynle Williams Memorial Award at the Royal Welsh Show.

The Conservative North Wales assembly member died at 62 in April.

He came to public prominence as the farmer who led the fuel protests in September 2000.

The annual award in his name has been established to recognise Mr Williams's contribution to Welsh agriculture, both as an AM and as an active farmer.

It will also celebrate the achievements of young farmers who have received support as part of the Welsh Government's young entrant support scheme.

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