I decided to attend this years CLA Game Fair that was being held at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire, for two reasons. The first being a weekend away with the lovely and vivacious Muddy Madam and the other was to search out new and interesting products for you, our dear reader. I'm happy to confirm that I achieved both.
To understand the size of the event, the press release I received after the event revealed that we were amongst the 144,000 visitors that flocked to the show over the three days. Furthermore, it cost £3 million to stage, with in excess of 900 exhibit stands and over 1000 contractors to build it. There was six miles of pipes laid, four miles of fencing erected, twenty miles of cabling, and six miles of tents! They estimated that half a million gallons of water was used and 60,000 litres of diesel for the 50 generators.
There were eleven bars, four restaurants, six hospitality suites, three champagne bars, twenty ice cream vans and seventy mobile catering units! And if that wasn't enough, in the members enclosure, in which I wasn't allowed, they had 500 bottles of champagne, 6,200 pints of Pimms along with 450 dressed crab for lunch and 8,000 rashers of bacon for breakfast, alright for some!
So when my mate Nick told me it would take around 2 days to explore all the exhibitors properly, he wasn't kidding!
After arriving at lunch time on the Saturday and registering in the press tent, we received our free programme and pondered for a while which of the 900 plus exhibitors we wanted to visit first. An easy choice for Mrs Turner as she'd been overly excited ever since she learnt that the UK distributor for the American caravan company Airstream were here. Airstream caravans remind me of Land Rovers, made from aluminium and built to last decades, hence the high prices. Even forty year old empty shells that require complete refurbishment can fetch up to £6k!
Moving on swiftly, we passed the Land Rover Experience guys who were showing off their skills on a custom made off road course. There was always a huge queue of people wanting a ride and lots of gasps from the crowd as the drivers had the fleet of Discovery's, 110's and Sports balancing on two wheels on some sections. Show offs!
It was so busy on the Saturday it was difficult to walk in a straight line, and of all the different sections, or villages as they were named, fishing, dogs, horses, falcons, etc, the busiest had to be Gunmakers Row. I've never seen as many guns in one place, and I only managed half way through as it was so crowded!
There were plenty of different demonstrations on offer, from BBQ game cooking to wine and champagne tasting in the 'Cookery Demonstration Theater', to lure fishing techniques in the Fishing Grandstand! At any time during the weekend there was always something to do or watch. Luckily, a lot of demonstrations were repeated so you didn't miss out.
Visitors also had the opportunity to participate at various activities, like field archery. Apparently it's a bit like a golf course with around 40 targets in a woodland setting and the archers follow the course round stopping to shoot at targets set at various distances. The person setting the course attempts to outwit the archer by setting the targets with dead ground, which is ground that can't be seen from the shooting position so that the archer has to judge the distance without a visible reference point. That means it's the most skilful, not necessarily the strongest, who wins.
The plan for Sunday was for Muddy Madam to sit and watch the many events in the arenas, from birds of prey, gun dogs, dogs for the disabled, hearing dogs, retrievers, RAF Police working dogs, and a variety of working horses, all doing their bits to entertain and educate. I on the other hand would meander around the stalls looking for anything that would be of interest.
First to grab my attention were 4Site 4x4 with the impressive Defender and trailer combo from BF Goodrich, and a couple of stalls down from them were All County 4x4 who were selling their range of wheels and tyres. I wanted a natter with both, but they always seemed overwhelmed with proper customers, so I left them to it.
It wasn't just the goodies that people were selling that I wanted to peruse, I also wanted to talk to the people who used their Land Rovers not only to promote their business, but are an integral part.
Also in attendance with a small stand was the King's Royal Hussars with their Defender. It would have been rude not to have taken a picture of cadets Robin Inkersole and Andy Meadows on the bonnet!
James Keyser was there with his range of useful products, in fact you may have seen his brilliant Autow Boot Pull in our product review pages. A great tried and tested product for removing your wellies or boots whilst out and about.
Voted 'product of the Month' for February 2010 in Practical Caravan magazine is a cool box from 'The Cool Icebox Company'. With it's 2” think insulation it'll keep your beer, or anything else for that matter cold for up to 5 days without power. However, due out in September 2010 is their Nomad 28 litre cooler. Described as state of the art and designed and buit entirely in the UK, the Nomad needs no power and will keep things cold for up to ten days, or frozen for up to four days. Watch these pages for further details.
Another product I thought was rather nifty, and you'll probably be able to read about it in the product review section, is the Pack-Away Bucket by Wacky Practicals. Like all their products, it simply folds away, which in my cluttered house makes it a very useful product indeed.
The Dream Pot is something that I'm so looking forward to getting hold of. It's basically a transportable slow cooker that you add your ingredients to the inner pan, heat them up for around thirty minutes, then place the inner pan into the Dream Pot, then your meal simply cooks itself. Ideal for days out laning, or for the family if your trialing and fed up of soggy sardines! (Unfortunately this isn't sold in the UK anymore, which is a shame as I still use it to this day 2016, but further details can be found here).
If I owned a dog and wanted to keep my Discovery nice and clean, I would have bought something from Paul at 'Over The Top'. Their range of protective custom seat covers and boot liners looked second to none.
Although way out of my price range, Adam Atkinson from Cherchbi was selling his British, handmade leather and Herdwyck tweed bags. If you want something that's going to last you a lifetime, and looks better with time, then Adam's range of products offer excellent value and will look the part either in the back of a Range Rover or Series 1, true classics.
Heading back to the main arena to look for Muddy Madam I was drawn to one of the smaller arenas by the Jive Pony Display Team. Two lovely young ladies on horseback performing amazing stunts, I was told later that there were two young men too, but I didn't notice them! Do a You Tube search and you'll understand what I mean. Ahem, great horse control!
Amongst the umpteen companies selling good quality outdoor clothing were Barbour, Dubarry, Swazi and the odd company selling tweed mini skirts and hot pants. C'mon, as if it wasn't hot enough!
As the show was coming to a close, we enjoyed a few of the closing competitions, like the lure coursing grudge match between the terriers and lurchers, and bagged a bargain or two as we made our way to the car parks. We had a great time and we're certainly looking forward to next years event at Blenheim Palace, and if it's half as well organised as this years, it's a weekend not to be missed, so I expect I'll see you there!