Monday, September 11, 2017
Welsh wows and what the f***s!
On Friday evening we travelled over 200 miles to compete in the annual Welsh Branch Championships of the NVS and after a long journey the first problem that faced us was manoeuvring the car down a ridiculously narrow alley at the side of our hotel to their car park. Despite pulling the wing mirrors in I was still sucking my breath in to try and make us smaller! Further shocks came as I tried to get a few hours kip which soon became almost impossible as the dregs of Carmarthen nightlife seemed to use the street below our room window for a slanging match. Rising at 3.15am for the 8 mile journey to the venue I passed dozens of revellers still going strong in the many pubs, but whilst their night was drawing to a close mine was just about to begin.
When I staged my veg at the Royal Pavillion at the 2011 National in Llangollen I didn’t think I’d ever come across a more dramatic place for a veg show. Walking into the domed glasshouse of the Welsh Botanic Garden was an even bigger wow moment however and proved to be a truly stunning place set your exhibits out in. And straight away I thought I’d potentially wasted my time as there was some superb stuff already on the benches but if I’ve learned one thing it’s never be put off by first glances as you never know what faults you can’t see on other people’s stuff, and you can be sure the judge will find them. One entry I didn’t manage to get down was in the National Tap Root Championships of Great Britain which was really the whole point of entering in the first place, to fulfil a dream I first had when I started showing over 20 years ago. Unfortunately my long beet just didn’t come up to the desired standard so I went to plan B and entered parsnips and long carrots instead. And it wasn’t a bad plan B as I managed to win the long carrots and get 3rd in parsnips, although I have to say I felt my long carrots were as rough as a badger’s snatch. I’d had to scrub them more than I would have liked as there was a lot of black marks at the skin lenticels where the root hairs emerge and I just couldn’t get them as clean as I would have preferred. Having said that several people told me they were still clear winners but I know I’ll need better looking roots for the National in 2 weeks time. Still, it was nice to take a few quid off the elderly class sponsor!
I was altogether much happier with my parsnips and thought I may even have won, they certainly looked the best set on Sunday afternoon when the dry atmosphere of the glasshouse was rendering many of the exhibits quite dehydrated in appearance, but I was happy that Mark Perry won the class, and here he is doing his best silverback gorilla impression. He was so happy to win that he left the trophy behind at the function and had to come back for it. Tit.
If anything went against my nips it was probably that I had one a bigger diameter at the top and I was in two minds about pulling more to see if I could get a better match up, but in the end I decided to leave well alone and save the rest for the National when Mark and I will be doing it all again, this time however we’ll be up against even stiffer competition so we’ll need even better roots. I was also in the tickets with my tomatoes (3rd), 250g onions (3rd) and marrows (2nd) so all in all a really good return as this level of competition is the top of the tree believe me.
The Welsh Branch has a collection class for 6 single veg which is always a well supported class as every exhibitor will have that one single specimen that doesn’t match any others but is otherwise superb, and in keeping with several other attempts at this type of collection I was frustratingly out of the tickets by only half a point. Whilst I had the highest pointed parsnip and long carrot my scabby potato only scored 12.5 out of 20 so it was my own fault, as I should have put a tomato or cucumber in instead.
One other piece of news that absolutely blew me away was that a chap in Minnesota USA has just broken the World record for the heaviest carrot, a record held by our own Peter Glazebrook. So what I hear you ask? Well, amazing as it sounds I actually supplied this guy with the seed in a roundabout way. I set my 5th place winning carrots from the 2015 Dundee National away for seed, harvesting them late last year intending to use them myself and give away any surplus to anyone who wanted some, advertising this on a couple of Facebook pages and several growers took me up on the offer. Kevin Fortey of GiantVegUK heard of this and asked me for some seed to send to America as they use New Red Intermediate, they just grow it in a different way to get the heavyweights. I sent him a load and thought no more of it, doubting that giant veg of such proportions could ever come from my seed, despite the fact that the roots they came from were quite a heavy set. Apparently there is a chap in South Wales who is growing a carrot that may even beat this one, and he is also using my seed, so I’ll be very interested to see the outcome at Malvern. Happy days.
And on Saturday afternoon, just before we set off to the prize giving function hosted by a very generous Welsh Branch that had made us very welcome all weekend, I was asked by a fellow hotel guest what time Liverpool kicked off. About every 15 minutes I told him.