Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 17:32 UK

Diary from Royal Welsh Show 2009

Carl Yapp
By Carl Yapp
BBC News website at Llanelwedd

Girl Guides Cerys Dartnell (left) and Ashley Kelleher with the cheese

Thursday 1730 BST

It's been another wonderful Royal Welsh Show... despite the rain.

To be fair, today hasn't been too bad and we've had our fair share of sunny intervals be help brighten up our day.

Meanwhile, indoors the show press office has done us (the press) proud again and supplied us with fantastic meals and facilities all week.

The show's press director, Hadyn Jones, has been his usual gracious and amenable self, but this year is his last as our media contact.

For the last eight years he has endeavoured to answer our questions to the best of his ability, and he has been approachable and knowledgeable.

As he was giving us his farewell speech the show band was playing the theme tune from the iconic movie The Great Escape in the background.

It was a pure coincidence. Well, I think it was.

Show officials may install an artificial surface instead of grass in the main ring next year.

It seems a sensible idea especially when you think the main ring has been severely affected by the rain in two of the last three years.

Meanwhile, the cheese-making Girl Guides returned a few moments ago to see for themselves what I'd written about them in my diary. They seemed impressed.

I must go now because I've got to collect my bara brith from the food hall.

I still can't believe I didn't win first prize.

Thursday 1245 BST

The Girl Guides are celebrating their centenary in September and as part of a year of events marking this achievement they have produced their own cheese.

The orchard fruit cheese is to be mass produced and the Guides are in talks with a major supermarket about stocking it.

Money made from the enterprise will be put towards the 100th anniversary celebration fund.

The Guides visited me earlier and I was treated to a tasting, and I must say that the cheese was very nice.

It's pink and it has a soft texture, and you can taste the fruit and the Welsh mustard in it.

The idea for the cheese came from 1st Llangynydir Girl Guides, who are based near Brecon in Powys.

Their cheese was selected ahead of other ideas from Guides, including one which was wine gum flavoured and another containing dolly mixtures. I'd love to try those.

I have a bit of a weakness for cheese and wine gums, so those two coming together would be my idea of gastronomic heaven. I suppose it would create a chewy, fruity cheese - lovely.

Guides Cerys Dartnell, 15, from Cardiff and Ashley Kelleher, 17, from Merthyr Tydfil, offered me a piece of the orchard fruit cheese.

They both said they liked the texture of it and thought it would sell well. It'll certainly be on my shopping list.

Thursday 0900 BST

I'm hooked on the thought of angling in Wales.

The vast improvement in the quality of our rivers is bringing in £144m a year to the economy and supports 1,500 jobs, says the Environment Agency.

It's sunny here at Llanelwedd at the moment, but the car parks and the show's main ring resemble Glastonbury on a bad day

Scotland and Ireland have historically been where the anglers have flocked, but the agency tells me Wales now has fishermen and women dangling.

Apparently, several of our rivers are renowned for the quality of their sea trout.

Ben Wilson, sustainable fisheries project manager for the agency in Wales, said angling was worth £76m to the Welsh economy 10 years ago, but that figure had nearly doubled since then.

Mr Wilson said a one-year marketing programme had resulted in anglers spending £27m in Wales, while hundreds of miles of rivers have been opened and riverside habitats improved since 2000.

With the recession biting, the agency is also helping farmers to save money. This is bound to appeal.

It is protecting river catchment areas by identifying where water is escaping off farms.

By fixing a gutter or repairing a water pipe farmers can save thousands of pounds, says the agency's Zoe Frogbrook and Richard Dearing.

They said drain repairs could save a dairy farmer milking 100 cows £9,000 a year because they wouldn't have to fill up a slurry lagoon from the tap.

Water saved by fixing guttering could help that same dairy farmer wash down their milking parlour sustainably, again saving the water bill.

Meanwhile, the Farmers' Union of Wales staged its traditional show night reception on Wednesday.

It was very well attended and the food was excellent.

Sadly, I didn't have chance to sample the wine on offer because I was driving. Some others, mentioning no names, supped my ration.

It's sunny here at Llanelwedd at the moment, but the car parks and the show's main ring resemble Glastonbury on a bad day.

Some vehicles became stuck last night leaving the showground car parks.


Wednesday 1415 BST

I had the immense pleasure of meeting three-year-old Catherine Nicholas earlier.

She must be the youngest person competing in the livestock classes here at the show, and now she's an award winner after scooping the new handlers' prize in the pig section.

Rachel and Catherine (left) Nicholas
Catherine Nicholas (left) and her mother Rachel after winning the top prize

Remarkably, Catherine, who has leukaemia, has been showing pigs since she was nine months old, her mother Rachel tells me.

Wearing a stockman's white coat and grasping a short stick, which was used to ensure her pig didn't stray, Catherine herded her British lop breed around a small ring, with her mother in tow, in front of a judge.

There was a huge cheer from the watching crowd when the youngster, from Raglan in Monmouthshire, was crowned the winner in her class.

Elsewhere, the weather has been playing its part...again.

We've endured torrential showers here today, but it isn't dampening visitors' spirits who have come here in their thousands.

Wednesday 0830 BST

The sun has come out here at Llanelwedd, and just in time.

It is historically the show's busiest period and it is, of course, Welsh cobs day.

A show car park
The show car parks are becoming a little muddy

It is still quite wet around the showground, and some of the car parks are starting to become rather muddy.

But at least it's not quite as bad as 2007 when tractors had to pull dozens of cars free.

The show is addressing concerns and its traffic manager Brian Rees said yesterday that 400 metres of extra tracking was being laid in certain parking areas.

Yesterday's attendance was nearly 7,000 down on the same day last year at 52,698 (59,880 for 2008).

The five-year average for a Tuesday is 59,880.

Show treasurer David Powell said the "discretionary spender" had decided to stay away, and sadly the event wasn't "weather proof". It had rained here for most of the day.

Meanwhile, the editor of the BBC radio show The Archers was here yesterday, and there was speculation among show officials at an afternoon press conference that the Royal Welsh could feature in a future episode of the long-running farming drama.

No one from The Archers was at the press conference to confirm or deny the claim.


Tuesday 1530 BST

I don't believe it. The RAF Lancaster bomber fly-past was cancelled earlier because of the bad weather here at Llanelwedd. Never mind.

The Forestry Commission's show stand
Children can pick up a tree at the Forestry Commission's carbon bank

BBC Wales' chief meteorologist Derek Brockway said we probably wouldn't have seen much of the aircraft because the cloud base was too low.

It has rained here at the show for most of the day, but tomorrow looks brighter although there will be a few heavy showers, Derek tells me.

It was so nice yesterday, and I was able to wear a suit. I cut a dash, if I do say so myself.

I received a lot of compliments, and clearly impressed one or two here at the show. Well, you've got to make an effort.

However, today was a total transformation. I've been forced into jeans, walking boots, gaters, my BBC waterproof coat, and I've worn a hat. Well, I don't want to get my hair wet...

Walking around the show today, I must say I was very impressed with the Forestry Commission's stand. It's designed to educate children about climate change, but I learned quite a bit as well.

Children were also given a small tree to plant to help soak up all that nasty CO2.


Tuesday 1040 BST

I'm really looking forward to the fly-past of a World War II Lancaster bomber this afternoon.

I'm a bit of a war film buff, so seeing this iconic aircraft will be a great thrill. I'll no doubt be humming the theme tune from the Dambusters to myself as the huge bird swoops down over the showground at 250ft at about 2.30pm, weather permitting.

Richard Moseley
Richard Moseley was Royal Welsh treasurer for nearly 40 years

It is a tribute to the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society's former treasurer Richard Moseley, who died in 2007 aged 82.

Mr Moseley was a veteran of more than 30 Lancaster bomber missions over Germany during the war, serving in the RAF as a rear gunner, which was regarded by many as the most dangerous position to have been in a Lancaster.

Elsewhere in the show today there's an abundance of culinary events. There's the taste of Powys event, while Meat Promotion Wales will announce the country's top sausage maker later this afternoon.


Monday 1535 BST

Disaster: the judges of the bara brith competition saw fit to give the first prize to someone else. How dare they.

Only joking. Well done Mrs Megan Richards, whose winning effort was rewarded with some complimentary remarks from the judges.

The winning bara brith
The winning bara brith, courtesy of Mrs Megan Richards

They'd cut all the cakes in half so they could have a poke around inside, and I must admit mine did look a bit soggy in the middle.

Mrs Richards' bara brith, on the other hand, looked supple and appetising. Perhaps I should have entered the chutney competition with my exciting combination of beetroot, broad bean and apple?

Not to worry.


Monday 1430 BST

It is a beautiful day here in Llanelwedd, although BBC weather guru Derek Brockway warns of rain tomorrow. It will turn heavy late morning and into the afternoon, but it will clear by the evening.

We had several heavy rain showers at the show yesterday and there were fears of a repeat of the dreadful weather we experienced here at Llanelwedd in 2007.

It's going to be fine, I'm sure.

There have been dark clouds elsewhere on the showground, but these clouds reflected the mood of the people left stranded in a car park when some shuttle buses failed to turn up this morning.

The problem has, apparently, been ironed out now, but the whole debacle has annoyed Montgomeryshire MP Lembit Opik, who was caught up in it.

He was delayed and so too was Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones, who missed the start of a press conference by Meat Promotions Wales.

With a wicked grin, she said later she had hoped her political expenses would have extended to a caravan near the show site.


Monday 0810 BST

The Royal Welsh Show bandwagon has rolled into town again for another four days of eagerly anticipated fun.

The agricultural showpiece in Powys seems to be expanding year on year with new records being set for livestock entries, while a new food hall is to be built at its home in Llanelwedd, near Builth Wells.

Carl Yapp's bara brith
Our man's effort was examined by the judges

The trade stand pitches are full and the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWAS) raised £370,000 in sponsorship ahead of this year's event.

Is there no stopping the show's relentless progress?

The pace of its growth is in stark contrast to the sad demise of the Royal Show in Warwickshire. The tale of the two shows couldn't be more different.

The curtain fell on that "Royal" after more than 150 years two weeks ago.

Its fall from grace was blamed on a lack of interest, and bad weather. Animal diseases have also contributed to the decline.

But Royal Welsh Show official David Lewis said on Sunday that he expected the event in Wales to be here "for ever and a day".

Meanwhile, I'm trying my hand as a Royal Welsh competitor this year.

I've entered a bara brith - for the uninitiated, it's a type of cross between Welsh fruit cake and bread - in one of the various produce competitions.

I'm using a family recipe passed down from mother to daughter - and now to son - for generations, or so my mother tells me.

I turned to my mother for the recipe because she's been making tasty bara brith for 40 years. The domestic goddess has donated the majority of her life to the service of the Yapp family, so who better to ask for advice?

We'll see how well it goes, but I'm hoping for at least first prize: no pressure.

I did enter the chutney competition as well, but decided at the last minute it was a culinary event too far.

Carl Yapp making a bara brith
Our man gets to grips with the intricacies of bara brith mixture

My brother, who is a chef and catering college lecturer, said my beetroot, broad bean and apple chutney wouldn't appeal to the judges. Much like my beetroot, broad bean and feta cheese salad, and my mackerel risotto with left-over beef tomato and lettuce that he mentions and cringes about whenever I try to tell him about my prowess in the kitchen.

But what else is happening at the show?

Well, Cardiff is represented here for the first time. Show officials said it was right that the Welsh capital had a stand at one of the country's top events.

Among the other highlights is a fly-past by a World War II Lancaster bomber on Tuesday afternoon.

RWAS officials said it would be a suitable tribute to the the society's former treasurer Richard Moseley, who died in 2007.

Mr Moseley served as a rear gunner aboard a Lancaster bomber during WWII.

Meanwhile, also here is Sir Emyr Jones Parry, the chairman of the All Wales Convention, which is looking into whether Wales should have more devolved power.

Sir Emyr will be visiting organisations to discuss the progress of the convention.



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