All the sights, smells and sounds of the season came together at the Weald and Downland Living Museum’s Autumn and Countryside Show.
Once again, this hugely-popular family event drew crowds to the 40-acre site at Singleton where there were activities and displays marking harvest and its importance to rural people.
The show, on Saturday and Sunday, was also the first time members of the public had been able to find out about the museum’s plans to mark its 50th anniversary next year with a major fundraising effort, which was launched last Thursday by the museum’s ambassador, actor Hugh Bonneville.
Before presenting a cheque for £5,000 towards the appeal, Hugh told guests at a special reception that it had been an easy decision to agree to support the cause as he had been visiting the museum nearly all his life and it was an amazing place.
He said: “It is special, and when I am here I feel an immense calm. It’s an opportunity to imagine, re-imagine and reflect – give pause for thought.
“It’s no coincidence Downton Abbey is number one in the cinema at present. I believe it’s a reflection of how we do like to be in touch with the past.
“The museum celebrates and investigates connecting with the past and there is a general feeling of resurgence in arts and crafts so brilliantly practised here,” added Hugh.
He officially opened the latest buildings to be re-erected at the museum, Eastwick Park dairy and Newdigate bakehouse, which complement the long-established Lurgashall watermill.
Samples of bread and biscuits from the bakehouse were eagerly tried by visitors to the autumn show as were the many artisan food products available in the food village.
Apple pressing showed how fruit grown on the site’s orchard at Bayleaf farmstead was turned into cider while other examples of home-grown fruit and vegetables were on display in the horticultural marquee.
The museum’s gardening team, Chichester Organic Gardening Society and Chichester Beekeepers’ Association representatives were also on hand to give advice.
Illustrating the age-old annual cycle of farming life, wheat grown on the museum’s fields was turned into grain by a steam-powered thresher as spectators were mesmerised by this early example of rural mechanisation. Vintage tractors and heavy horses also had their chance to show visitors how they contributed to harvest.
Arena displays throughout the two days included a fascinating insight into how gun dogs, ferrets and a Harris hawk could work together.
A fun dog show, organised by MAD About Dogs, attracted entries for seven classes, including best friend for a child under 12 with a dog.
Music from The FB Pocket Orchestra, The Courtiers and The Kites kept feet tapping as stalls were browsed and Fishbourne Mill Morris dancers performed on Sunday.
There was have-a-go archery for adults while children had plenty to interest them, too, with large-scale medieval games by the Mill Pond.
As one of the largest events held at the museum each year, the show was the ideal springboard for the museum’s golden jubilee celebrations and appeal, which aims to raise £2.5m, a sum which will be match-funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to improve access, re-build and conserve Titchfield Market Hall and establish an endowment fund for the future.
Celebrity supporters for 50 Years and Counting include television historian Ruth Goodman, presenters from The Repair Shop, which is filmed at the museum, and broadcaster and historian Dr Jonathan Foyle.
For further information about the appeal, visit: wealddownland.co.uk