One of the things that I love most about this time of year, other than getting out in my allotment and sowing seeds is that it is the time of year when garden shows and events begin again. I love to spend a spring or summer day strolling around a fair or festival in the sun, especially if it has a gardening theme.
Saturday 21st April marked the start of this season for me with the arrival of the “Firle Garden Show”, which is an annual event held over three days at the beautiful Firle Place, near Lewes in East Sussex. This show is one of my personal favourites and I was literally counting down the days until the show began. I visited this show for the first time last year and even though the weather had been pretty cold, it had been a fantastic day and I knew straight away that I was going to be hooked on visiting this show every year!
On the morning of the show, I set out early, accompanied by my Son and Daughter who were also both looking forward to the show (and trust me, that almost never happens when I try to drag them to something gardening related!) We arrived at about 11am, an hour after the show had opened its doors for the day and eagerly queued for our tickets. The tickets are reasonably priced at £7 for an adult £3 for a child.
This year we were lucky with the weather. It was the April heatwave and we strolled through the gates wearing summer clothes and not feeling in the slightest bit chilly. Upon entering the show, you are spoilt for choice. There are hundreds of stalls to peruse, many selling a selection of gardenalia, plants, gifts or artisan food. I adore browsing these stalls and hoping to find something a little bit special to purchase for the allotment.
One stall that I knew I wanted to visit was “Lavender And Leeks” a gorgeous stand selling vintage and handmade items, run by the lovely Katie (and her Dad). I follow Katie on Youtube and always love watching her videos, so it is lovely to be able to say hello to her in person. Naturally I couldn’t pass her stall by without a little purchase and I ended up buying some slate plant markers and crooks, which will be incredibly useful in the allotment this year.
We then entered one of the gift marquees. The selection of stalls was fantastic, but I was rather rushed around this marquee by my Son, who was anxious to locate the fairground rides and children’s area!
The Children’s area was easy to locate, due to the giant inflatable slide that could be seen from almost every area of the show. My Son was ecstatic to see that the archery attraction that he had enjoyed last year was once again there. We paid a few pounds and he picked up the bow and arrows and took aim.
As well as archery, there was also the aforementioned giant slide for Children to enjoy as well as a coconut shy, mini merry-go-round and zorbing. Both my children had fun on the giant slide and then tried their hand at zorbing (which is basically running around inside a giant inflatable ball). Somehow both of them also managed to win a coconut on the coconut shy, which was nothing short of a miracle and thankfully negated the need for arguing, which I am sure would have ensued had only one of them won!
The next stop was a stall that I had had my eye on for a while. It was a large stall selling various herb plants. The company was named “Herbal Haven” and the selection of herbs that they had available to purchase was amazing. I have never seen so many different varieties of mint or Thyme before! I did have to hold myself back and limit what I purchased, though this was more due to space than budget as most of the herbs were very reasonably priced at £2 a pot. I ended up selecting some Vietnamese Coriander, Orange Thyme and Ginger Mint. I love something a little different to the norm and Herbal Haven definitely ticked those boxes! I will definitely be making sure I look out for them at future shows I attend.
Now, as well as plants, another huge passion of mine is food! I was lucky enough last year to be a partner in a business selling handmade cookies at food fairs and festivals, which meant that I could spend time wandering round numerous food festivals and call it “work”. Unfortunately due to a house move, we have had to stop baking for the time being, so I have to get my foodie fix at events I attend as a customer. Luckily for me, there was a fantastic food tent at the Firle show. I ended up purchasing some lovely handmade sausages, tablet fudge, regular fudge and far too much cheese! I held myself back at the gin stall, but that was only because I have recently discovered a new favourite gin at one of the big supermarkets and I didn’t really want to be carrying a bottle of gin around all day – far too tempting!
After sampling an array of delicious food in the food tents, we continued our journey. We had a quick go on the tombola (well actually, it was 3 go’s, I am pretty addicted to a tombola!) Despite having just purchased fudge, I was lucky enough to win another four bars in a gift box from the same Lady I had purchased from just minutes earlier. I couldn’t complain though, after all, who doesn’t love fudge?
As we meandered through the beautiful gardens we came upon the kids circus skills area. This was a large area where children could practise various entertaining skills such as juggling, stilt walking, plate spinning, hula hooping and much more. At this point in time, I was more than happy to drop the kids off there and wander a few nearby stalls by myself (I did keep one eye on them most of the time, as I am not entirely sure I was meant to leave them unsupervised!) The kids loved having a go at the different things available to try and to be honest, had it been a cooler day I probably would have joined in too!
As if that wasn’t enough, there was also a pirate themed “treasure hunt” for the Children. This was run by the local Vicar, who transforms himself into a pirate for the day to hide mini chocolate eggs for the children. Last year this was held in the grounds of the church which is easily accessed from the show. This year the church was closed for renovations and so the treasure hunt was relocated to the front of Firle House. Surprisingly the treasure hunt is free for all children, which in this day and age is a really nice touch. My children, although almost at secondary school age, still loved hunting down and collecting the chocolate eggs and to be honest this is something else that I would have joined in with (had I thought I could get away with it!).
It was now definitely time for some lunch. The selection of hot food stands was impressive. You could choose from hotdogs, seafood, crepes, jacket potatoes, a burger van and much more that I cannot recall now! The children both jumped at the chance to have a crepe and I took the burger van option! There was so much delicious looking food available, but I just had a real hankering for a burger van burger! The drinks were expensive at £1.50 for a 330ml can and I did wish I had brought some drinks with us, especially as it was such a hot day, but the food was good and tasty and not too expensive.
After lunch, it was naturally time for an ice cream pudding and a bit more of a wander. At this point, we had already been at the show for over four hours. Neither of my children had complained of being bored (nothing short of a miracle!) and the day had gone very quickly indeed.
As we wandered through some more stalls I treated myself to a little wire basket with a woven handle. It looked perfect for collecting Chicken eggs in and while I do not yet have Chicken’s, I do have a deep desire to get them at some point once I have learned more about caring for them and found a space for them to enjoy. The basket was a little present to myself to remind myself that one day I will have them!
The day as a whole was such an enjoyable one. Everyone we met and stopped to talk to was friendly and the whole fair seemed to be well run. As well as everything we saw, there were also a few other attractions that unfortunately we did not manage to see, such as a Birds of Prey display and roaming jazz trio. I really couldn’t give this show a higher recommendation, it was just a really, lovely day. The organisers of this show actually run two further shows later on in the year, one at Stansted Park and one at Loseley Park in Guildford. Both of these venues are a little way from me, but I am highly tempted to visit them as if they are half as good as the Firle show then it will be well worth the travelling!