Hugo Straker: Fair a chance to engage with countryside

The annual Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The annual Scottish Game Fair at Scone Palace. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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TRUST’S flagship event offers something for all the family says Hugo Straker

Now in its 28th year, the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) Scottish Game Fair attracts more than 27,000 visitors over its three days from all across the UK. The Scotsman is headline sponsor of the event, which runs from 1-3 June at Scone Palace near Perth.

GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity and its Game Fair presents an excellent opportunity for visitors of all ages to engage with the countryside and discover more about the importance of conservation, Scotland’s game and wildlife management and country sports.

This year, the GWCT stand highlights the trust’s research and showcases how science can be translated into practical management advice for farmers and land managers, helping to ensure a thriving countryside rich in game and wildlife.

Grass to Grouse is the theme for this year’s central exhibit, and its various displays will promote how sympathetic management of a hill edge livestock farm can be efficient and carefully integrated with sporting enterprises without loss of biodiversity. This is especially relevant as GWCT now has a second demonstration farm (the first is in Leicestershire) at Auchnerran on Deeside, where it’s 1200 acre sheep farm abuts 12,000 acres of leased grouse moor. At Auchnerran there will be work to assess how one land use can benefit and influence the other, and how both can derive gains from positive management and sharing of resources. Some of this will be mirrored in the central display at the Fair.

The Fair has important educational and conservation messages to deliver, but it also offers a lot for families and children, and the Wee Beasties Marquee is set to be a hive of activity, quite literally. Younger visitors will learn all there is to know about honeybees and pollination with experienced beekeepers on hand as well as a live observation hive. Wildlife sculptor Julian Jardine and the Royal Highland Education Trust will also be running a variety of free workshops offering children the chance to get their hands dirty with clay model making.

This year’s Artist in Residence is Jonathan Pointer and visitors will have the opportunity to meet him and see him in action. Jonathan is inspired by Victorian art and his work, which has been exhibited widely both nationally and internationally, covers wildlife and game.

This year’s Fair programme includes the return of a number of favourites such as the Dog and Duck Show, the Sheep Show, the Tug o’ War and the ever-popular Terrier Racing. There are also a number of competitions running throughout the event including fly casting, gnat and clay shooting, and the gundog tests and scurry. On Sunday, the Fred Taylor Memorial Trophy for Working Hill Ponies, which is expecting a record number of entries, takes place in the Main Ring, and new for 2016 is a display of horse logging, offering a wonderful insight into this environmentally sensitive method of timber extraction.

There are also a number of “have a go” activities including archery, fly tying and casting, clay shooting and much more.

Three Sisters Bake return to the Cookery Theatre to showcase their fantastic bakery skills throughout the Fair while Christopher Trotter will focus this year on forgotten foods and be creating some innovative recipes to share. The Food Hall showcases Scotland’s finest food and drink producers including baked goods, meats, chocolate, seafood, condiments and whisky and much more.

There will be more than 450 traders retailing crafts, clothing, equipment and sporting goods. There has been an unprecedented level of trader applications for 2016 and visitors can expect lots of great shopping and bargains.

Another development for 2016 is the new Forestry Section. Represented within this section will be some of the leading woodland management and service companies, tree growers, chippers, harvesters, ATVs, saw milling, tree surgery and equipment suppliers.

All in all the Fair makes for a great family day out.

• Hugo Straker is chairman, GWCT Scottish Game Fair. Please visit www.scottishfair.com for more information on ticket prices, advance tickets and fast track entry.