Aylsham Show president looks forward to summer comeback - at last

Aylsham Show president Poul Hovesen is looking forward to the summer event's 2022 comeback

Aylsham Show president Poul Hovesen is looking forward to the summer event's 2022 comeback - Credit: Matthew Usher

After three years as its figurehead, the president of the Aylsham Show is finally looking forward to overseeing the summer spectacular, after two successive Covid cancellations.

The much-missed event promises an "improved, modernised show" when it returns to Blickling Park on Bank Holiday Monday, August 29.

And if you break down the DNA of the show and its president, a lot of the same elements would appear under the microscope.

A respect for traditional farming methods from the past, mixed with seeking exciting technical developments for the future plus a passion for preserving the countryside, and a drive to bring more young people into the industry - all will feature the country’s biggest one-day agricultural show.

And they also run through the farming blood of Poul Hovesen, who is looking forward to finally fulfilling his presidential destiny.

“I have been president for three years, and not had a show yet,” he said.

Livestock on display at the 2019 Aylsham Show. Picture: Chris Hill

Livestock on display at the last Aylsham Show in 2019 - Credit: Chris Hill

Covid cancelled the event in 2020 and 2021, but Mr Hovesen said: “The two-year break was unfortunate but it has given us the chance to do lots of thinking to come back with a fresh showcase of agricultural and country life that keeps its traditional roots but is modern too.”

Plans include a new layout including a lakeside cookery zone and aims to make the agricultural displays more hands-on and educational to inspire a new generation of young people to come into the industry.

Mr Hovesen, 66, got his first taste of farming as a schoolboy in his native Jutland close to the city of Aarhus in Denmark.

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“I was the youngest of three brothers," he said. "The older two went off to play football, and I started to play with tractors on a neighbouring farm."

His career took him into agricultural management, working for three different farmers in Denmark. But in the early 1970s he was drawn to England as “everything we aspired to as teenagers was in England – music, clothes, but maybe not the cars.”

In 1987, Mr Hovesen arrived at Salle Farms, through Danish contacts of owner Sir John White, also a former show president. ”I came initially for a few years and here I am 35 years later,” he said.

As estate manager, he was involved with the expansion of the business, from adding neighbouring Norfolk land to buying 900 hectares in Poland which he used to visit regularly.

In 2011, he became director of farming at the prestigious Holkham Estate, the home of the Earl of Leicester whose ancestor was Thomas Coke the 18th century farming pioneer who promoted crop rotation.

And in 2018 Mr Hovesen, also a big supporter of rotation methods, was made a director at the Raynham Estate, home of the revolutionary agriculturalist “Turnip Townshend” in the 18th century. 

His own agricultural acumen was recognised with a fellowship of the Royal Agricultural Association and, in 2014, he was voted Farmers’ Weekly “Farmer of the Year”. He is also a key figure in Catalyst Farming, a collaboration of five farming companies which test, discuss and implement best practice.

Number-crunching data on crops and techniques is aimed at fine-tuning farming methods, while attracting and nurturing young talent to enter careers in agriculture.

Mr Hovesen, who lives in Reepham with wife Alison, hopes the 2022 Aylsham Show, with its mix of family fun and a celebration of rural life, is also a shop window to attract youngsters into the sector.

By the time the show comes around, having passed his 67th birthday in the spring, he will have retired from his hands-on role as manager at Salle Farms giving him more time to enjoy his show honour.

He said: ”The show is very fortunate to be a charity which has been supported by sponsors, members and volunteers – even through Covid – which has meant even though there was no show we have still been able to give funds to local charities. We owe those supporters an enormous thank-you for their generosity over the past two years in particular."