A look ahead to the Lancashire Game & Country Festival
PUBLISHED: 14:45 05 September 2016 | UPDATED: 14:45 05 September 2016
Country lovers will be heading to Scorton on September 10th and 11th for the Game Festival, supported by Lancashire Life. Julie Frankland reports
FLAT cap, whippet, ferret in the pocket – your rural Lancashire pin-up circa cartoons of the mid 20th century! Is he (or she, for that matter) extinct or still in existence today?
It may surprise you to learn that not only are they still alive and well, but thriving - and that is despite recent press coverage highlighting the rise of rural crime in the county, and the many other challenges that people living and working in remote areas now face.
For evidence of our countryside’s resilience and fightback, look no further than the Lancashire Game & Country Festival, which takes place at Scorton Showground this month, over the weekend of September 10th and 11th.
Enthusiastically supported by Lancashire Life, the festival is a celebration of not only Lancashire’s great rural heritage traditions, but also the county’s enduring passion for the country pursuits of hunting, shooting and fishing which are today fuelling a relatively unsung regional economic surge.
An example, according to research, is shooting - live quarry, clay pigeons, targets combined - which is estimated to be worth £160 million annually to our local economy.
Although not directly linked, a major beneficiary of Lancashire’s love for country sports is the hospitality industry, which provides accommodation, food and drink to shooting parties. Our restaurants and butchers and food outlets benefit from its fresh game such as the incomparable grouse and regional specialities such as wild Lune salmon. For those whose preference is more the competitive element of shooting rather than what’s bagged, members of Blackpool Sporting Clays will be seeking to recruit even more devotees through their presence at the festival.
It is claimed shooting also provides the equivalent of almost 6,500 full-time jobs in our region and leads to the management of 890,000 hectares of land for conservation. And when it comes to land management, pest control is often still the preserve of the ferret - at least where damaging populations of rabbit are concerned.
Andy Handley, chairman of the British Ferret Club, is adamant that the UK’s ferret population is at an all-time high. He believes that of all the country’s ferrets, 40 per cent are working ferrets, are used by their handlers for pest control, while 60 per cent are family pets and, as at the Lancashire Game & Country Festival, proudly taken to events to be shown and raced. Andy said: ‘Ferrets make lovely pets. They are intelligent creatures that benefit from frequent handling. They don’t see very well so if they get spooked, they will nip but being nipped by a ferret is nothing like being bitten by dog.
‘I am 52 years-old now and I have kept ferrets since the age of seven. When I was a lad, farmers, game keepers and people who worked in pest control had ferrets to manage rabbits because of the damage they could cause to farm land and big gardens. Using ferrets in this way is a natural and humane method but increasingly, ferrets nowadays are bought as pets. This is why the country’s ferret population has never been bigger.’
Also on show at the Lancashire Game & Country Festival will be lurchers, terriers and birds of prey. Top UK falconer Ben Potter will be demonstrating his mastery of species such as eagles and vultures as well as more traditional hunting birds.
But away from the field, the Lancashire Game & Country Festival is also very much a family event with a marquee showcasing country crafts and cottage industries. Food also plays a large part, with a food theatre featuring cooking demonstrations by chefs from the renowned Cartford Inn and game specialists Honeywells Butchers. There are also many food stalls selling a mixture of take home or ‘eat there and then’ goodies.
The festival also has its own shopping hub with top retailers selling clothing and equipment and there’s a children’s fair. Festival organiser Craig Whittingham said: ‘This year’s festival is only the second Lancashire Game & Country Festival but last year’s inaugural event proved so popular, we are back by public demand.
‘We have retained all the elements that visitors enjoyed last year but we have also tried to broaden its appeal, especially for families as ultimately, our countryside and its future is in our children’s hands. We have Cyril the Squirrel and his Famous Racing Terriers with us as well as Ben Potter to bring some fun and novelty to very traditional aspects of country life.
‘The aim of the Lancashire Game & Country Festival is to encourage people to get outdoors and support our countryside and those whose livelihoods depend on it.’
Win a Katie original
Don’t miss the Lancashire Life marquee at this year’s Game Festival where we’ll be joined by artist Katie Hampson from Fleetwood. Katie has a growing reputation as a hugely talented painter of animals and you could win one of her original pieces of work.
Visitors to the Lancashire Life stand can fill in a slip which will be entered into a prize draw. The winner can have their pet painted by Katie. You’ll also be able to see her work on display and watch as she creates her brilliant pictures. You never know, you might be tempted to have your pet immortalised on canvas!