While this year’s South of England Show was fun for visitors, it was hard work for one set of exhibitors in particular.

Year one and two level three agricultural engineering students from Hadlow College spent three days in the hot summer sunshine rebuilding a rusty heap of metal that claimed to be a 1939 Allis Chalmers Model B tractor and putting it back into running order.

Proud lecturer Steve Pike told South East Farmer that his students had been up to the challenge. “We had to tow it into the ring and then bump start it on the Sunday, but we got it going, drove it around the ring and back to the stand,” he confirmed.

The victory lap took place in a new addition to this year’s show, a vintage agricultural machinery ring presented by the South Eastern Vintage Agricultural Club (SEVAC), which proved popular with the many thousands of visitors who enjoyed glorious weather through the weekend.

The SEVAC ring was home to tractor and steam parades and harvesting and baling demonstrations by machinery that included an early 1960s Massey Ferguson conventional baler towed by a Massey 362 fitted with grass tyres.

The show was the 55th to have been held at the Ardingly Showground in West Sussex and again showcased first-class agricultural and equestrian competitions and displays, alongside a broad range of trade stands and some impressive arena events.

Organised by the South of England Agricultural Society, headline attractions included international show jumping, impressive livestock parades and a spectacular display by the Bolddog Lings FMX motocross stunt team.

The show featured over 1,000 livestock entries, with 2023 proving a particularly good year for sheep, with almost 500 entries. There were new classes for Kune pigs and Beltex sheep, while the Story of Wool was another new attraction that proved popular. Sheep farmers demonstrated shearing and talked to the public about their role and wool production, while spinners and weavers were on hand to demonstrate their age-old skills.

The main ring saw a range of equestrian competitions, including the Inter Hunt Relay, equine showing classes, the Equestrian Games UK, the Shetland Pony Grand National and scurry driving competitions.

There were plenty of stalls to provide retail therapy alongside the agricultural focus that show director Corrie Ince succeeded in maintaining, while live music and the ever-popular sheep show attracted enthusiastic crowds. 

The show also boasted an impressive array of country craft displays, offering activities such as stick-making, hedge-laying, trug-making, and a ‘grape & grain walk’ that allowed visitors to try and buy top quality beverages from local vineyards and breweries.

The show’s Discover the Countryside area included forestry and fly casting, as well as a bees and honey marquee with live bee demonstrations and observation hides. 

Ensuring the younger generation had an unforgettable experience, the show featured various free activities which taught them about food production and its origins, and they could also find out more information about the Young Farmers’ Club organisation.

Describing the show as “a great success”, Corrie Ince said: “It truly connected our visitors with rural industries and provided a fantastic opportunity for them to engage with the hardworking farmers, landowners and talented craftspeople located across the south east. 

Praising the “invaluable contribution” of volunteers and staff, she said they worked tirelessly to bring the event to life year after year. 

“Their commitment allows us to celebrate the agricultural world and share its wonders with the public, inspiring countless individuals, especially the next generation. She concluded: “After a few hard years for everyone, it really felt like the show was back to its very best.”