Monday, 15 October 2012
Autumn Countryside Show - Weald and Downland Open Air Museum
Saturday 13th October
Apples and cider, besom brooms and wood turning, heavy horses and vintage tractors, horticultural and craft displays, gun dogs and falconry, second hand books and country clothing, local food and drink, a huge threshing machine and traditional farming techniques, all under glorious October sunshine surrounded by autumn tinted trees, harvested fields and rolling hills, where else could I be except at a country show celebrating all things traditional, rural and autumnal? In this case it was the annual Autumn Countryside Show at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in Singleton, West Sussex. Located in a beautiful setting, adjacent to the West Dean Estate and the pretty villages of Singleton and West Dean, surrounded by rolling downland and wooded slopes, the museum is home to a vast collection of preserved buildings, rescued from various sites across the south of England, re-built piece by piece to their former glory, side-by-side with wood yard and horse yard, rare-breed pigs in the woodland, South Down sheep in the pasture and traditional crops in the fields. Chickens scratch around the dung heap and a sleepy cat lies stretched out in the sun that streams over the wooden stable door. In the old houses, hearths gently smoulder and scented herbs hang in lead-light windows, whilst the barns are stacked towards the beams with ripe grain and thatching straw. Pheasants run like clockwork toys across corn stubble and buzzards soar on thermals overhead. In the gardens, veg patches overflow with bounty, where leeks and onions vie with ruby chard, pumpkins and nasturtiums, runner beans compete with sunflowers and artichokes, and rose-hips ramble through hedgerow and across flint faced walls above borage and hyssop, angelica and comfrey. The interiors of workshop and school house, stable, blacksmiths and farm-workers cottage have been lovingly reconstructed, near a working watermill still grinding corn and a tin church tucked beneath the trees.