Melplash Revisited

27 August 2017
Ben Pentreath

We arrived at the show after a quick pub lunch to be greeted by a wonderful clown on a hobby horse. It was going to be that kind of a day!

First stop was Floral Art.

Everyone got the meaning of Charlie’s ‘A step back in time’ other than the judge, who didn’t quite understand how or why it was a step back in time. Perfect, though!

The winning exhibition of the overall show, ‘Touring the Vineyards of France’. 

For some unfathomable reason Charlie’s arrangement on the same theme of A Traveller’s Tale was un-judged, being ‘Not According to Schedule’ but I loved it and it was clearly a crowd-pleaser. Definitely the most beautiful arrangement I saw all day (Although I am biased). Charlie’s ‘Creative Cubes’ was also completely magical.

Next, Horticulture, everyone’s favourite tent.

It became clear early on that a certain Ashley Ball had done rather brilliantly.

Our dearest friend Caddy had also had great success with certain of her vegetables (such as the longest carrot?  Hello Caddy…. these are INSANE?!?!?!?). 

The dahlia display was amazing.

It also became clear that a certain Christine Tomkins had wiped the board in Dahlias. 

Deservedly, it has to be said, although not everyone’s actual cup of tea.


If the prizes weren’t won by Christine, they were scooped up by Roger Downting. 

Christine had First Second and Third in the pom-pom category.  These were serious exhibition-grown beasts.

Charlie’s beautiful arrangement of mixed dahlias got the third prize.

Ashley Ball had entered this display though in the same category.  Hello!?!?!??!?! Madness. A delight. 

More scenes from the flower tent.

Charlie had first prize in a single rose specimen.

Charlie got second and third in sweet peas, a very tough category. 

The beautiful floating bowl winner.

Caddy – first prize in onions.

(Although not the heaviest onion prize):

But she dd win heaviest Marrow. INSANE.

Charlie – second in courgettes, another highly contested category. 

The following award winning exhibits were all entered  by Ashley Ball. Amazing.


The FB Pocket Orchestra were amazing.  Worth a listen. 

Dog racing.

Morris men and women outside the Melplash Inn.

The grand parade.
We loved the yellow and white tents everywhere.

Rare breeds;

The thoughtful face of the farmer:

The goat tent:



Show jumping:

Bee people:

Charlie and Caddy getting ready to empty out their stuff from the Horticultural tent:

Where we found Christine Tompkins and Roger Downting!

(It turns out these fine exhibitors run the Yeovil Dahlia and Chrysanthemum Society).

Caddy and her carrots:

Inspiring awe and fear in all who passed:

I love the putting away moments.

The heaviest onion going home:

OH GOD. Charlie meets Ashley Ball.  That is the face of respect!

Collecting cherry tomatoes:

And shallots:

Best co-ordinated team costume:

And a final photograph is of our lovely neighbours in Long Bredy, Colin and Sue Dyer, who won the highly prestigious ‘Best Garden’ award in 2017.  Colin and Sue have done the most remarkable job of transforming their little corner of the village. A few years ago, it was neglected place, a once-pretty Georgian cottage despoiled with awful plastic windows and the garden over-grown. When Colin and Sue moved in they put everything back exactly as it should be, and then set about working the most beautiful cottage garden around.  There is a special place in heaven reserved for such good people.

Golly I love the Melplash show.  At the end of the Grand Parade, one of the speakers announced that Country Life Magazine had described the show as one of the twenty things in Britain you MUST do this summer.  We briefly wondered if they’d got the idea from last year’s blog, but either way, I can’t help but agree. And I can’t wait for 2018. Can’t you? Something tells me the shake up in the Floral Art Tent will be on a roll, and that Charlie will somehow have squeezed in space for giant Exhibition Dahlias into a patch in the garden too.

40 comments on this post

Carol Brynersays:

I enjoyed this post SO much. Those eggs! So much diversity within such strict conformity. What a joyful event. Thanks for the wonderful tour. Next best thing to being there, I think.


This is one of your best blog entries by far! And that’s saying something because I’ve read every single one.
I think Charlie was completely robbed in the floral art section.
And those enormous carrots!! Amazing!
On a final note, I always love your photos of people going about their business – always beautifully taken.


Dear Ben, How wonderfully you have captured the Melplash show, for the record I also thought Charlie’s arrangements were amazing, so original and beautiful. Clever chap!


I turn my back for five minutes – ok, two weeks – and there are three blogs to catch up on. Italy versus Melplash? Melplash by a carrot’s length. I love the way all the animals scrub up so well for these shows, and look so pleased with themselves; also the little people showing off their prize creatures are great. On to the next blog…Best wishes, Nicola

Jane Leonardsays:

Sorry, meant to thank you, Ben – it’s your blog!

Jane Leonardsays:

Competitive dahlia growing is a whole different ball game to growing them for the garden, as I found out when I thought I would enter a few for our local show in South Harting, W Sussex. Luckily decided against it at the last minute, and so pleased I did, given the dahlias that won prizes there on the day. Will stick to competitive flower arranging instead! Lovely blog, as per usual, Charlie – thanks.

Emma Fletchersays:

You snapped us in the Grandstand!! We loved the show. Weren’t those carrots crazy. And the Dahlias just so pretty. My parents were visiting with us from the Bahamas and they bumped into my father’s cousin who said everyone goes to Melplash!!

Alison Lewissays:

Forgive me for saying this but this is far more fun and glorious than Chelsea Flower Show! Well done, Charlie on your awards. Your single rose defined perfection x

Charlotte Ksays:

Golly! Those are some carrots!

Rebecca Smithsays:

Heaven! Makes me so happy to read this and to see the entries – all winners. It also makes me happy that at our little show in Binsted one can only enter a single entry per category, although it meant that Mr Smith did not know he had grown prize-winning dahlias as I could not bear to only enter once!
Also, how wonderful is that winning donkey!


Can’t stop smiling. I do love all these remarkable displays, but Charlie’s dahlia border wins all contests hands down.


Thank God we got to see who Ashley Ball is at the end! It was making me a little crazy not knowing. I loved your Melplash post last year, this one may have topped it. The best! PS Charlie’s cubes were exquisite….

Page Moransays:

This is the best. I hope it is ok that I posted it on my Facebook. I never know if that is a correct thing to do.
The flowers are just lovely. And everyone was so lively in their little hats and right into all the muck.
You are so kind to share your experiences with everyone.
Thank you.

Janey Pughsays:

My Lord. Priceless. So enjoyed this. Thank you.


Loved this post. Thank you.


Hooray we were there and yes it was a great day.Great to see that Charlie picked up so many awards there were some brilliant entries.I had to smile when l overheard an elderly gentlemen talking “they be big ones they are” l can only assume he was referring to the onions!!

glenda baylesssays:

ooopsy, gorgeous white cow’missus’.


tears to me eyes, yer’ bring, dear ben! jaw open drooling and cooing at the most exquisite bunch of animal photos, that white bull dude, oh oh and the clydesdales and their respectful caring owners, big sigh, but nothing compares to your caption/photo, when kiwi charlie meets ashley ball! and the napping pigs, wonderful.

a great way to begin the week here, english style, where the peerless state of texas is treading water, good to know that life is still the same over your way.


Margarett Matthewssays:

Love,love,love! You brought out the best of country living. What is the date of 2018 show? Old farm girl from Illinois would enjoy coming to see this wonderful country show.Enjoy all posts,this was perfect for August.A first time comment but a faithful fan!


What a wonderful show, thank you for sharing with us this fantastic sunday !
Congratulations Charlie for the courgettes, they look like Art !
And all your beautiful flower arrangements, they are the best.
The price award for the eggs on the plates …… amazing 🙂
How beautiful are all the animals, cattles, sheeps, pigs & horses.
So lovely people are there and such carrots & onions, I’ve never
seen before ……
I think it was a big pleasure last sunday. I love these fantastic english shows, they are unique !
England forever 🙂

Deby (in Canada)says:

Oh Ben One of my favourite posts of the year- you bring the show to life for us- favourite images-
the little ones so proudly showing their sheep, the grey and pink spotted sheep – could Bridie be doing something amazing with that print!, your friend Caddy with those almost terrifying carrots and any pic with a peep of Charlie who has worked so hard and creatively
thanks and cheers Deby

Remedial Wifesays:

What a swizz that Charlie missed out on the floral arrangements! I do feel he was hard done by. And those gigantic carrots, mad! There is nothing like an English country show, thank you for letting us be voyeurs once again. Looking forward to seeing how Charlie gets on next year.

Lynne Schweizer Hudsonsays:

Such a wonderful tour of a wonderful event. Thank you!
Charlie’s arrangements are absolutely brilliant. He
stands on the same ground as great florists like Gregor Lersch of Germany.


The narrative arc in this post was even more dramatic than in others (e.g., that one where, when driving home to London, you suddenly came across an old church) (here: Charlie meets Ashley!)
I’ve thought so often of replying to say how important your blog is to me: shared values. Thank you so much

Ashley Levisays:

Great coverage and writing for the Melplash Show. I was becoming more and more anxious about this Ashley Ball big winner. Needed to see the face with the name and worried that there might be a tense encounter between Charlie and Ashley. Thank God you delivered us the big winner and thank God for Charlie’s good sportsmanship! I sense a collaboration in the future for Charlie and Ashley? Creativity knows no bounds. Well done!

judith csays:

was hoping you’d post about Melplash Show again this year and you did! Thank you for another lovely ‘visit’.

Amy Nunnallysays:

Thank you for taking us all to the fair with you


I find it astounding that Charlie’s entries for A traveller’s Tale and Creative Cubes did not win anything. Perhaps no accounting for provincial taste?

Pierre B.says:

Ben you really know how to capture an atmosphere. Congratulations, Charlie, for ALL your contributions to this show.
Your friend Caddy could have quite a success with a book called “Gardening with steroids”.


Not at all how I was picturing Ashley Ball to look. Charlie wins best chest hair though. It’s posts like these that keep me coming back time after time. Thank you!


Oh this was such a balm of flowers, vegetables and animal husbandry. It soothes the news trauma in the US to know that humans and nature can produce such beauty and handsomeness in color and livestock. Thanks so much for sharing. LIfe does go on in quiet ways. May the week be glorious and we will keep plugging away to restore some sanity here across the pond. Best to Charlie and his glorious arrangements.


Wonderful post as ever! Love all this English stuff! I pinned some of your great photos on my pinterest board “Glorious English Village fete”. We have been on a village fete in Dorset, when we visited England in July. It was gorgeous! Everytime I read your beloved “Monday Message” I insert a Vaughan Williams CD and the England feeling is perfect! Thank you so much for all your great posts! Trudy from Germany


Oh rural England. Bliss. Apart from feeling very miffed that Charlie didn’t win 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize for Dahlias. And everything else he submitted. Thank you for a wonderful post.


I wonder if the animals enjoy it as much as the humans?! Bet they do! I

Frances Palmersays:

Brilliant! Every photo a gem. Thank you for sharing. Wow, those carrots!


This is soooooo English ! Nothing else compares. Love it.

kathryn blackburnsays:

What a lovely surprise. A Sunday blog from you. I had just been cleaning up the cat spray left by a Tom that had gained entry last night and was not in the best of moods as a result when I thought I will find cheer in an old post by Ben. But Lo !
Thank you so much as ever.

Southern galsays:

What a wonderful post. It was like being there. A good respite on the last Sunday in august and makes one want to move there immediately.

David Sanderssays:

My aren’t those Clydesdales magnificent looking animals, resplendent in their fluffy white socks. Nothing beats a good country show.

holly williamssays:

I adore your garden and architecture posts, but this post by far is my all time favorite. Oh, if only our local fair was 1/10th as amazing as this. Thank you for sharing!

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