THE organisers of the Henley Show are counting the cost of a year of extreme weather.
The Henley and District Agricultural Association recorded a deficit of about £8,000 as a result of a fall in visitors to last year’s events.
It said the day of the sheepdog trial in July was too hot, Henley Show day in September started with rain and the ploughing match in October was held on one of the wettest days of the year.
Paul Fairweather, the association’s treasurer, estimated that more than 1,000 people were put off going to the show, its flagship event, due to the weather.
Speaking at the association’s annual meeting at Hambleden village hall on Thursday last week, he said: “This time last year I gave thanks to the weather gods for blessing all our events, leading to a surplus in 2012.
“This year, I am sorry to say, they exacted their revenge. The final 2013 results show our total net income from events was well below budget.
“Poor weather in the early morning of show day cost us over 1,000 visitors through the gate. Rain of biblical proportions washed away the crowds for the ploughing match and by way of contrast the day of the sheepdog trial was probably the hottest day of the year and the lure of the river and the swimming pool robbed us of hundreds of visitors.”
Mr Fairweather said that tight control of administration expenses “limited the damage” but added: “The net result was a considerable shortfall against budget. As an organisation, we continue to rely heavily on our loyal sponsors.”
Jo Taylor, association and show manager, said: “We are heavily dependent on good weather for our three events. Without good attendance we struggle to break even at the end of each year.”
She said she didn’t want the Henley Show to suffer the same fate as Moorgreen Country Show in Nottinghamshire which has been cancelled this year for the first time in more than 160 years.
“We do not want to go down that road,” she said. “The Henley Show has been a wonderful source of entertainment and education for people from Henley and the surrounding areas for well over 120 years.”
Mike Cannon, who chairs the association, said he was pleased to report that last year there had no repeat of the parking problems suffered by visitors leaving the showground after the 2012 show.
He said: “I accept we had fewer cars but new practices were put in place and we are confident that we have a way forward for the future. This will be an area that will be heavily monitored.”
Mr Cannon thanked outgoing president Rick White, retiring patrons Lord and Lady Alvingham, Urs Schwarzenbach for the use of his land for both the show and sheepdog trial and Lord and Lady Phillimore for the use of their land for the ploughing match.
Mr White, from Goring Heath, said he had enjoyed his year in office, adding: “I have heard it from numerous sources — association members, tradespeople and visitors — that 2013 was the best show in recent times.”
He praised the committees for their “can-do” attitude and praised their chairman Simon Beddows and Mr Cannon for “getting things done”.
Mr White added: “I look forward to continuing to support the work of the association for many years to come.”
Lord and Lady Alvingham have retired after seven years and will be succeeded by Sir William and Lady McAlpine.
Mr Cannon paid tribute to the outgoing couple, saying: “They have always been available with wise counsel, which has been dispensed with grace and humour. It has been a great comfort to know that they have always been there.
“One of the many areas in which Lord Alvingham was able to help the association was in organising the lifting of the Henley road closures during last year’s show.”
Lord Alvingham replied: “When we came to live here in 1968 we were dragooned into becoming members of the association and we haven’t regretted one moment.
“We have had the most wonderful support, we have both been presidents and both been patrons. Thank you for all the support you have given us. We wish our new president Lady Phillimore success in her year. Thank you for so many happy years.”
The guest speaker was William Emmett, co-founder of Bremont Watches, which is based in Marlow Road, Henley. He gave a presentation on the history of the Emmett family in horticulture and agriculture over the past 100 years.
For more information or to become a member of the association, call Jo Taylor on (01491) 413619 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday, July 20 — Sheepdog trial, Henley Showground
Saturday, September 13 — Henley Show, Henley Showground
Sunday, October 5 — Ploughing match and country market, Bishopsland, Dunsden