Fair Report 2012
In 2012 the weather gods have not been kind to organisers of events, and throughout the late Spring and Summer as the roll-call of cancelled events got ever longer, we wondered about our own precious fair and weather we would be able to go ahead.
Fortunately we had many staunch supporters and in June the Harley Estate the landlords of Aardvark Books where the fair is held, sent in diggers to relay the car park area and to put new wooden boarding in place of the car park's grass verges. in the weeks of torrential rain that followed this was to be crucial, as we remained puddle free and we began to hope that things would be alright. Richard Williams, Brian Vale and Geoff Bevan the wonderful local farmers whose fields we use for the main marquee and the parking, told us that the fields were holding up well and they even survived the torrential floods and downpours of early July.
On the Thursday before the fair started Henman Marquees arrived to erect the main exhibitor tent under blue skies and warm sunshine, and this continued until the late afternoon when we had some rain. A team consisting of Paul from Aardvark and Sam and Tom Carletti also mananged to erect two of the Aardvark tents. Friday morning I was sent off to get some wood bark to go at the entrance to the marquee, and Sam and Tom Carletti arrived to put up the large Aardvark rtent with Paul and Catherine. Customers continued to arrive in the bookshop, as did Mandy from Lane Cottage with her veg Van ( at Aardvark every Friday Morning between 10am-11.30am ). Later the film crew from ITV arrived, but there was a hitch. The company had sent the wrong camera mount and filming couldn't go ahead until a solution was found. Paul calmly fashioned a new piece for them from hardboard and wood, and they left to photograph the area around Brampton Bryan.
Olivia Gibson prompt as ever turned up to set up her stall at 12.30pm, and work was still under way of removing the evidence of the field's usual occupants, before putting out the tables and chairs. Olivia held on whilst Sarah went out with her pooper scooper and Sam followed her with Wood bark to cover over and fill any ruts in the ground. As the afternoon rolled on more exhibitors arrived to set up including Whyle House Lamb and Castle Farm Pork who set up their gazebo next to the warehouse.
Saphron of Pepper Lane Vintage in Ludlow had sent in advance team to sort out the stage area for her dances on Saturday, and a happy time was spent sorting through the sound equipement that we had hired from Village Outreach in Bishops Castle. When it turned out that a lead had be left out they drove from Bishops Castle to bring it!
All was fine until 5.30 when I left to put out the last of the fair signs on the A49. At this point the heavens opened and I was forced to put out signs in a thunder storm. Leintwardine was awash with a torrent of water pouring down the hill to the river at the bottom.
Arriving back at the site we quickly realised that the water had inundated the main Marquee and I was sent out to buy more sacks of wood bark to put down.
In the end 11 large bags would go in to mop up the water and allow the ground to be firm enough to take the carpets provided by Henman Marquees ( these had done service a few days before as the red carpets used by the Queen during her visit to Hereford as part of the Jubilee celebrations ).
Sarah and Edward stayed on the site to deal with sundry other problems. Later Ian Campbell our fair electrician would leave his supper to come and spend several hours sorting out the fair electrics. Unfortunately it was found that the generator we had thought we could use to supply power to the exhibitors in the marquee was not working properly. We faced having to relocate two key exhibitors ( one of whom was scheduled to be central to the filming on Saturday ), with no obvious alternative. Fortunately Edward came up with the idea of asking one of our neighbours whether we could run a cable from their house and the crisis was averted.
Next morning dawned dark and overcast with some rain continuing to fall. Edward was first on the site, and when I arrived with Sarah we found that the ground under the tent was very waterlogged. it was back in the car to Leominster where yet more bags of large bark were bought to try to make the ground dry enough for people to walk on. Before I left however I came across Richard Williams whose lends us a couple of his fields for parking each year. Richard was using his Manitou to bale out water from a large hole in the entrance to the field we use for public parking. The water removed he then fetched two loads of gravel and filled the hole right up. Despite all the rain that had fallen before the fair ( and a bit more at lunch time ) only one vehicle got bogged down ( this on the marquee field ), and again Richard was on hand to pull them out.
Back from Leominster we spread the bark and over the top laid red carpet that James Henman had donated to us from Hereford's Royal visit a few days before.
I fetched Paul from Bucknell and Sam and Tom had arrived. Everything was in full swing with more and more exhibitors arriving, but where were the Cottage Herbery - Kim has been first on site every year since we started. They would arrive at after 8.30 having had a nightmare to reach us as roads were closed between Tenbury and Ludlow. 'We couldn't let you down', Kim said 'So we just kept driving around until we found a way through. It was all I could do not to well up.
Next it was off with Richard Williams to the village hall to fetch chairs for visitors. Two loads later the warehouse was full with chairs. My sister then came to tell me that the path to the entrance was dangerous. Catherine and Paul had cleared this on Thursday, but all the rain on Friday night had made it a slippery disaster area. With only half an hour till the start I rushed off to Knighton and bought a large sack of Sand. This i started to spread along the path as the first visitors started to arrive. Car parked I then came back to the site to see what needed to be done. Sound systems still needed fixing, as did the projector for the evening's film.
Next I was grabbed by the director of the film crew who wanted to know when we were opening the fair as they wanted to film the ceremony. We decided to wait a little longer until the fair site filled up, and this gave me a chance to talk to some of the exhibitors to check all was well. Needless to say Sarah and Carolyn had been there before me and the main marquee was now starting to hum and I witnessed the great site of items being placed in bags and money changing hands. Next the lady from the Welsh cake stall ran up to tell me that there was no power. I found Edward who rushed over to the neighbours to see what the problem was. Had the circuits blown ? No as it happened Walther our neighbour's dog had cleverly managed to turn the switch off at the wall !
The fair was filling up so we were ushered over to the microphone to declare the fair open. John Challis our celebrity guest opened the fair with a witty short speech, and then Carolyn said a few words of welcome and gave the timing for John's inconversation with Actor Tim Wallers.
Their conversation finished, the first of the cookery demonstrations followed - Carolyn's vintage breakfast/brunch. Little Rumba began their first set and suddenly the fair was bathed in fantastic sunshine. It was going to be ok.
The rest of the day went by in a flash. Cookery demonstration from the chefs from the Milebrook Hotel. a welsh cake cook-off with Linda Bellingham, Norrie Davies playing her French accordion, and the hubbub of hundreds of happy visitors talking to stall holders and disappearing to their cars with bags and bags of food and drink.
Highlight of the day was undoubtedly the fashion and dance spectacular mounted by Saphron from Pepper Lane Vintage. Dancing, clothes and music combined to make for an unforgettable performance. We hope that Saphron will return with her dancers next year as part of a one-off evening show.
Apart from a brief shower in the middle of the day the rain held off wonderfully ( confounding the forecasts ) and at 5pm when the stalls closed there were still hundreds of visitiors enjoying the music and atmosphere and watching the film crew who were at this point filming the judging of the welsh cake challenge.
At 6pm our showing of JULIE AND JULIA got underway in our impromptu cinema in the warehouse and Edward, Jo, Paul and Catherine left for a well earned rest. Most of the stallholders had packed and gone by 6.30pm and Sarah and I were left to do clearing away of rubbish and unplugging of power lines etc.
Finally at 8.15pm the film ended and the final visitors went off happy into the night. It had been a fantastic fair and none of us can wait until next year comes around !