With Autumn upon us it’s good to take the opportunity for an afternoon out when a decent day presents itself. It was such a day this past Saturday, one of lots of welcome sunshine and a plan to visit historic Thoresby Hall in North Nottinghamshire for the large craft fair that is hosted there annually.
I love this area of Nottinghamshire. Not only does it feature Thoresby Hall and Park but also Sherwood Forest, the huge Clumber Park, Rufford Park, Sherwood Pines and Clipstone Forest. All of these are in reasonable proximity and represent for me what people might imagine the ancient Nottinghamshire of Sherwood Forest and Robin Hood legend to be all about. Other areas to the south of what’s known as The Dukeries are heavily forested and offer a link to the past. It’s easy to take in the atmosphere of these lovely places and to let your imagination roam.
The first sight of Thoreby Hall is a very imposing one. The hall has a commanding and impressive frontage which makes a powerful statement. We are not here today to visit the hall though but rather to take in the well-renowned craft fair and entertainment on offer during the day. The afternoon doesn’t disappoint.
I always enjoy the fine foods on offer at these types of things and today was no different. Not gourmet on this occasion but I could hardly resist a ‘Giant Wheel’ from the liquorice stall! That and a pack of tasty Sicilian sausages to savour at home plus a sausage roll the size of a house brick. The latter didn’t make it home…
I’m not particularly a crafts fan actually. Some things I admire though, particularly woodwork. I also enjoy the associated events that come along on these occasions. Today’s fair featured ‘Chrissie’s Owls’, basically an owl rescue service. I’m no ornithologist per se but I enjoy and have an interest in all forms of wildlife, usually casually spotted whilst out on my walks. Hawks are my favourite creatures, I have a great fascination and appreciation for them.
Today in the small marquee were four Owls, perched eagerly on short tree stumps. An immature Barn Owl named Spooky, another indigenous bird a Tawny Owl and two altogether more formidable creatures in a Canadian Long-Eared Owl and a European Eagle Owl. Cute as the two former birds were the Canadian and European species were altogether more threatening looking, especially with that unblinking stare that most owls exhibit.
As I stood, a woman bought a tiny terrier dog into the marquee, it was peeping out of her handbag. The owl man had asked her not to take the dog in front of the owls but it was too late, already the Eagle Owl was poised to kill, poised menacingly on the edge of its perch, head pushed forward with a vicious glare. If you remember the arched look that Rod Hull’s Emu had just before it was about to strike out at Michael Parkinson or some other unwitting victim you’ll need no more description Even I felt afraid.
More fun than you could shake a stick at was quite literally around the next corner. The Ferret Racing was about to begin. Four long pipes complete with a ‘Beeches Brook’ water obstacle were laid out for the keen ferrets to race for the public. The Master of Ceremonies built up the beginning of the race to a crescendo whilst a helper ran a book on the event. Fifty pence on a ferret’s nose would bring you fifty pence winnings – enough for a ‘down payment on an ice cream’ claimed the ring master! I’m not sure what I expected, something of a quick dash which lasted seconds but not so. The racing ferrets were up and back, up and back the piped raceways in a grand display of indecision and lack of interest! ‘Yellow’ finally extracted his whole body from the far end of the pipe and was proclaimed the winner ‘The last hair on the tip of the ferret’s tail must be out of the pipe ladies and gentlemen’. My choice, ‘Green’ did not trouble the finishing line. Great fun.
There were other oddities at the fair I mused over a pint of cold cider outside the beer tent with the sun washing down over us. Notably a marquee with wooden artifacts made out of spare wood from the refurbishment of Lord Nelson’s famous ship the HMS Victory. Slightly unusual but what was interesting was that the proprietor was actually dressed as Lord Nelson himself, complete with the strains of Rule Britannia rolling out.
All good things come to an end and it was time to leave as the sun left us for the day and a crisp evening came into it’s infancy. I’m not so sure about craft fairs one way or another. What I can say though is that they are fabulous places to observe classic English eccentricity. Nobody really does it better.