Today saw the return of the two-day Royal Welsh Winter Fair to the Llanelwedd showground at Builth Wells, set against the the rolling green landscape of the mid Wales countryside. Run by the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, the first ever Winter Fair took place 30 years ago. It has since grown to become one of the biggest events in the British agricultural calendar and one of Europe’s finest prime stock shows.
Established in 1904, the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society represents the interests of Welsh agriculture and livestock industries, driving the development of the rural economy in Wales.
You’ve probably heard of the annual Royal Welsh Show, which takes place in July. The Winter Fair is one of two other events that take place throughout the year, in addition to the Spring Festival in May.
Royal Welsh Winter Fair
So, what are the highlights of the Royal Welsh Winter Fair?
Livestock shows and auctions
Throughout the two-day Winter Fair, the UK’s leading livestock breeders and farmers compete to win various awards.
On day two, after judging has finished, the public bid to buy one of the prize-winning exhibits in the livestock auctions.
Although livestock shows make up a big part of the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, there are a number of other contests taking place over the two days including shearing and wool-handling, farriery and horticulture, to highlight just a few.
Away from the judging ring, Welsh food and drink producers showcase their goods to Christmas shoppers and food enthusiasts in the Food Hall. I was delighted to see that Cwm Farm Charcuterie were there, as I’ve been meaning to get my hands on some of their nduja for a recipe I’m currently working on.
Ruth and Andrew Davies of Cwm Farm were lucky enough to win not one, not two, but three awards for their Christmas hampers, which were on display in the Carcass Hall – one came in second place, while the other took first place and the coveted title of Champion.
I also picked up some seaweed cheese from Caws Teifi, award-winning artisan honey from Bee Welsh Honey and Tregroes milk chocolate waffles.
When I saw the size of the sausage rolls from The Original Welsh Oggie Company, I knew what I was having for lunch!
The Food Hall also plays host to a string of food demonstrations throughout the Royal Welsh Winter Fair.
Earlier today, the Royal Welsh Winter Fair enjoyed a royal visit from HRH Countess of Wessex. During her visit, she saw the start-up farmers market, the Winter Fair Taste Test competitions, the home crafts and horticulture displays and, of course, the livestock.
Start-up Farmers Market
For the first time this year, the Royal Welsh Winter Fair features a Start-up Farmers Market made up of 12 newly launched food and drink start-ups.
Made possible by a partnership between the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society and the Agora project, this initiative provides training and support to enable small businesses to build confidence and key retail skills.
If you’re visiting the Winter Fair, consider supporting some of these small businesses by purchasing some of their produce or gifts. The Start-Up Farmer’s Market can be found right outside the Society’s main office.
Besides the producers mentioned above, the Start-Up Farmer’s Market also featured Hindwell Farm, Aga Farm, Guy Hottie, Chappelle Turkeys, Cegin Kate, Collards Distillery Ltd, Williams Brothers Cider, Bodloni and Cegin Kate.
Winter Fair Taste Awards 2018 for the Native Lamb Breeds of Wales
Also new for this year are the Royal Welsh Winter Fair Taste Awards 2018 for the Native Lamb Breeds of Wales, held in partnership with Cambrian Training, the Culinary Association of Wales and the Wales Culinary Team.
Set up to champion the quality specialty lamb products available in Wales and the distinct differences in flavour between each, this is the first Native Lamb breeds of Wales Taste Test. Each breed has been born, bred and raised in Wales, grass-fed and has full traceability from farm-to-fork.
Six Welsh native breeds of lamb were entered and each joint was professionally prepared and cooked, ready to be sampled by the judges – and an eagerly anticipating audience! The panel included HRH The Countess of Wessex, Nerys Howell, Gareth Ward (of the Michelin-starred Ynyshir) and Michael Bates (Celtic Manor Resort).
It was interesting to discover more about the unique characteristics of each of the different breeds, and even better to have the opportunity to try some of the melt-in-your-mouth morsels of luscious lamb for ourselves.
A big well done to the winner, the Welsh Mountain Hill Flock, reared by Hefin Jones, son of Ken and Elen Jones of Bryn Ddraenen, Padog in Betws y Coed.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair and I’m kicking myself that it’s taken me this long to get round to going. Roll on the Spring Fair in May!
If you didn’t manage to make it to the Royal Welsh Winter Fair today, it’ll be happening all over again tomorrow from 8am onwards at the Llanelwedd showground at Builth Wells. Tickets cost £16 for adults and £5 for children and can either be purchased online, or upon entry. For more details, visit www.rwas.wales.