The Royal Manx took place this year over August 9th and 10th so as you can figure I'm a bit late in sharing photos. Though I was hard at work at my own stall, I was fortunately able to take an hour off to speed around the fairgrounds to take pictures, look at displays, and chat to friends. The Royal Manx is the farming highlight of the year and it's at this show that you can find most every local farmer and producer either showing their livestock or selling their products. .
The show seems to be getting bigger every year and it takes ages to walk from one corner of the field to the other. Dotted along the way were stalls for local craftsmen and businesses, arts and craft displays, confectionery and produce competitions, showings of birds and small animals, a beer tent, and enclosures and rings for larger farm animals such as horses, sheep, goats, and cattle. There was also plenty of entertainment to be had and I really wish I'd have had time to sit down and watch the 'Ducks of Hazard' - it was such a good laugh last time.
As usual, the Isle of Man beekeepers put on a good display and were conveniently located in the tent next to mine. There were four or five different types of honey to taste and children crowded around the display hive trying to spot the Queen through the glass. I'm often asked if I sell my own honey and unfortunately there's only a little I can spare from my two hives. However, if you're interested in buying some direct have a look at the above image for the contact details of beekeepers throughout the island.
The tent I spent the most time in was the one hosting the competitions for confectionery, preserves, produce, and other home-produced foods and crafts. I was particularly impressed by how many different types of country wine and alcohol entries there were. You'll have the obligatory Sloe Gins and Elderflower Champagnes but I was also interested to see homemade rice wines, and boozy treats made with greengages, damsons, blackberries, and rhubarb. If I had more time I'd have loved to participate!
I thought that I'd had an early morning that day but was blown away to hear that a good friend of mine woke up at 3am so that she could bake fresh scones and muffins for the confectionery classes. She also entered in several bottles of preserves and was pleased to take home a stack of awards including first prize for her Lemon Curd. Ellie makes some mean baked goods so I'm not surprised she cleaned up on her entries. Though I missed seeing her in the tent, I did bump into another lady who was happy to give me some tips for award winning scones. Apparently her trick is to make them in advance and then freeze them. I've never heard of anyone entering defrosted scones into a competition but apparently they've received first prize before.
There were scores of other categories but one of the ones I was most fascinated by were the eggs and in particular the eggs that won first prize. The shells were speckled dark and light brown and the yolks were deep orange. I wonder what type of hen laid these beautiful eggs? Maybe Welsummers? Up until now I've only seen solidly coloured chicken eggs and had no idea they came in such beautiful patterns too.
Unusually coloured eggs win first prize
While walking past the main arena, I found a sheep herding competition in full swing. Border Collies whipped to and fro directing little flocks of sheep around an invisible obstacle course. Following the shepherds' whistle commands, the dogs would run up along the sheep on one side or another and sometimes hit the ground and wait for a few seconds. Though the ewes weren't thrilled about being chased, the dogs and the audience clearly loved it.
Nearby I ran into Paul Crocker who was for the first time at the show with his new Shropshire sheep. You might recall from a previous post that Paul imported his sheep into the Isle of Man from the UK since they're a breed that can be successfully raised in an orchard. It was a huge day for him, his wife, and his flock since they won several prizes including second prize for best Tup (ram) in show.
Paul Crocker on cloud nine after winning several awards for his Shropshires
Alex & Fiona working hard at the Doggielicous stand
With time running out I stopped by to chat with other friends on my way back to work. Alex and Fiona at Doggielicious were selling their handmade dog treats and canine accessories while friends from the Permaculture Association were busy spinning wool to make a shawl. Whether selling wares or volunteering, the passion for local incentives and producing handmade goods was evidenced by enthusiastic conversation and beaming smiles.
Claire & David spinning wool and being crafty
Rachel with her beautiful sheep skins
Another friend, Rachel from Island Sheepskins, had a lovely double fronted stall and also educated me on the process of curing sheepskins. It's hard work and time consuming but the end products are unique, beautiful, and so soft.
Steve Prescott from the Native Oak Group also put together an impressive display with his Manx Native Trees including hedgerow and fruit varieties. I was interested to find out that he's involved in the Ramsey Forest project and will be supplying thousands of trees that will be used to create continuous pockets of wooded areas from Ramsey to Sulby. He's also happy to speak to private individuals who are interested in creating small woodlands, hedgerows, and forest gardens so if you're interested in getting in touch with him please visit his website.
Steve of the Native Oak Group / Manx Native Trees
It was a quick swoop around the show and before I knew it I was back manning my stall and chatting with customers about handmade soap, lip balms, and bees. I can't get enough of talking to people about my products and time flies once I'm at my pitch - in fact, both days at the Royal went by in a flash and just a few hours later we were packing up and heading out. It was a fantastic two days and I very much look forward to seeing the sights again next year. If you'd like to visit too, please visit the Royal Manx's website for more information.
No Manx farming event would be complete without a four-horned Loaughtan ram