The bad news is that for anyone wanting to visit the Kelmarsh Game and Country Sports Fair in 2007 is that you are too late as the event was held over the a two day period on the 8th and 9th April is some wonderful sunshine in the beautiful grounds of Kelmarsh House. The good news is the fact that not only will it be back next year but that also the organisers, Countryman Fairs, host a number of events throughout the year around the country and whilst each event has its own distinctive flavour and character they do tend to follow the same winning formula. Check out the website at www.countrymanfairs.co.uk to find out if there is a show being held near where you live.
This is a great day out for all the family and while I found the entry costs a bit steep it still represented good value for money especially as the weather was so great it was ideal picnic weather. This also has the added benefit of keeping the costs down as well.
Kelmarsh is located just off Junction 2 of the A14 close to the M1 and about a twenty minute drive from Northampton. Approaching by car from Northampton I started to pick up signs to the event from about five miles outside of Kelmarsh and the event was clearly marked as you enter the village with separate directions for both visitors and exhibiters. What I did not realise until we arrived was that there was car parking both to the north and south of the event which helped considerably in reducing the congestion in the area.
We had decided to visit on the Bank Holiday Monday which turned out to be the busier of the two days according to one of the stall holders I spoke to and whilst you did have to queue a bit in traffic before reaching the parking area your car was always moving. On the way out temporary traffic lights had been set up to make it easier for traffic leaving the site to enter the main road. Parking is in one of the many fields and the marshals were efficient in directing the traffic and had a good system in place.
The grounds of the house are ideal for holding such as an event as they are fairly flat making it pretty easy for everyone to get about, they are also very pretty and the location of a small lake near to the house meant that all of the main events including the fly fishing demonstrations were close to hand.
I did feel that these were a bit on the high side to be honest. Adult entry was £11, OAP £10 whilst children between the age of 4-14 was £4. Under 4's get in for free. What was disappointing was the fact that there was no combined family ticket on sale. It is possible to camp at the event for the weekend at a cost of £15 per pitch and a two day pass was £17 for adults and £5 for kids.
There was a rather good programme on sale with a full list of events and useful map which cost an additional £3.
The ticket office had the facility to accept cards as ell as cash and they were quick to offer cash back if you used your card.
Clay Target Shooting
Throughout the two days there are a number of competitive events, all of the shows throughout the year build up to a grand final at the Midlands Fair. The main emphasis at this particular show seemed to be on clay pigeon shooting and various dog trials. There was the constant sound of shotguns firing throughout the day but they were far enough away to not be a nuisance in fact the sound added to the whole feel of the event. The clay pigeon shooting events were on the outside of the fair about a two minute walk from the main arena and various shooting traps were set up, it was quite interesting to watch the contestants shoot and I was surprised at the range of ages from both genders taking part in a competition sponsored by Mitsubishi.
There was also a shooting school that those new to clays could take part in and in particular they were well set up to teach young people.
The Fly Casting Competitions were actually quite interesting and the accuracy of the contestants was pretty special as they had to cast over a sort of obstacle course that test both the vertical and horizontal accuracy of the angler whilst at the same time performing against the clock.
In addition throughout the day a number of, I assume famous anglers (with a name like Chris The Countryman Green you have got to be known by more people than just your mother) were on hand to do demonstrations and give instructional talks, whilst for a non fisher it was interesting to watch their skill it was not the most fascinating of topics to listen to however they did tend to have quite an avid and knowledgeable crowd watching them.
These were by far the favourite events for both the kids and myself, various assault courses and retrieval exercises were completed by the dogs, some were a lot better than others but it was always entertaining and with all of the distractions going on it as pretty impressive that the dogs were able to concentrate to complete the tasks.
Our particular favourite was the water scurry which tested the dogs swimming abilities whilst the Up and Over event was also good to watch as it tested the dogs ability to retrieve and jump obstacles.
There were two main arenas at the fair. The Working Dog Arena was a place to see a number of dog handlers talk about how they train a variety of dogs as well as a place to show some of the breeds in the competitions.
We did sit through a really interesting show from one trainer who had me thinking how useful some of his tips would be in training the ankle biters alas I believe that even for him that would be one challenge too far. This was a really enjoyable demonstration with a nice amount of humour and he was particularly skilled at getting the personality of the dogs across to the audience.
The Main Arena had a number of different events throughout the day and the whole event really did stick to the scheduled times with almost military precision. Most event ran for about 30 minutes each including handover and there was a falconry display, some adorable miniature horses, some horse logging and a sheepdog display. All of these were repeated in the afternoon so if you missed he first showing there was always a second chance.
Other Things to Do
There were absolutely loads of other things to do and spend your money on as well as lots to see that did not involve Dad having to dip into his pockets every five minutes. There was a small fair on the site although most of the handful of rides were £2.50 a go which again is on the high side I felt but then again maybe Im just tight.
For those who did not fancy wielding a shotgun there were air rifle, archery, crossbow and even paint ball stands.
The ferret racing was well worth checking out and the funds raised went to the welfare charity and there were also craft demonstrations of stick and fence making to watch and purchase the products. A number of vintage cars and steam engines were also on show.
There was plenty of shopping to do as well with lots of stalls selling country clothes and hats, there were a number of stalls selling the same type of clothing which meant that there was a certain amount of rice competition going on, there were also a lot of trade stands and some of these such as those selling angling gear were located close to the lake for example.
There was a craft fair in one of the large tents as well as a food hall which had a good range of products.
Catering and Facilities
For those who did not bring a picnic there were a number of food options ranging from the usual burger vans to slightly more wholesome sandwiches, roast pork, potatoes and even a noodle bar as well as plenty of opportunities to buy ice cream, sweets and cakes. The prices were not too bad helped y the fact that there was always some competition and there was a seating area outside one of the beer tents which had live entertainment in the form of a swing band and a Punch and Judy show for the kids.
There were plenty of toilet facilities located on the site in the form of porta loos for the ladies and stand up communal urinals for the men and whilst the loos did have queues they were pretty clean and well stocked with paper.
Overall this was a fun day out which kept the kids entertained for a good six hours. With its focus on country sports it would not be to everyone tastes but I did like the fact that you were not constantly being asked to sign any pro hunting petitions, Im sure they were there but you had to look for them as they did not come to find you. There is plenty to see and do and whilst the entry was a bit steep it will not break the bank particularly if you take a picnic which you can leave in the car as you can get a stamp to allow re-entry on the day.
Thanks for reading and rating my review.