Traditional English Summer Village Fetes in the West Country
Being brought up in the countryside I realise was an absolute privilege. Now I’m delighted that, like many people who escape in their 20s for the bright lights of a city, I’m firmly back where I started. One of my childhood memories is of an annual event, which blurs into just one day – the village fete in my home of Dalwood. Now with children of my own the traditional English village fete, fair (or even fayre) has come back onto the list of things to do over the summer.
For children of all ages there are amusing games of chance, hoopla, tombola, guess the number of sweets in a jar or balloons in a car, lucky dip and one of my favourites, the human fruit machine.
Add in a cake stall, raffle, local produce, home made jewellery, arts, crafts and second hand books and hold it all together with music, displays from majorettes, birds of prey or agility dogs, Morris dancers and Punch and Judy. Of course, let’s not forget the beer and tea tents when you need a rest from all the excitement and really you’ve got something for everyone.
Have you seen ferret racing before? Take a look, it’s great fun.
These summer fetes are pulled together by bands of enthusiastic volunteers who give up large amounts of time and often physical energy to get the show on the road. They really do represent everything good about British society; volunteering, co-operation, organisation skills that frankly exceed those of some major corporations, and ultimately fund raising for local causes.
Of course there’s often minor falling outs over the planning “but we’ve always done it that way” as a new committee member suggests an improvement, or panic on the day at the realisation that everyone assumed someone else was arranging some vital element of the event. Fortunately I’ve been busy being a school governor for the last 6 years and have successfully side stepped joining one of these committees!
I’m pretty sure these events occur all over the country throughout the summer and how great they are. There’s something about the activity taking place on a village green or local field that adds to the whole event and makes it so quintessentially English. I used to sell Usborne books so was often there early setting up my own display, while around me I’d observe frantic activity; organisers directing people to set up stalls on uneven ground, getting electric in the right places, putting up parking signs and often battling with rain or wind (not a good combination for books)! For the last 4 years I’ve been confined to the tea tent in Hawkchurch, always a little sanctuary, whatever the weather!
Anyway back to the point of this post – I want to help advertise what’s left of these summer extravaganzas for 2016 and one more that has come to my attention that is not actually a village fete but a summer fair for a very worthy local organisation.
Munchkins Miniature Shetland Pony Summer Fair
Set up three years ago and now with Charitable status, Munchkins rescues abandoned, abused and neglected Shetland ponies to a sanctuary in East Devon. It’s heart breaking to hear some of the circumstances that these adorable little animals find themselves in and you really have to wonder that humans can be so cruel.
Thanks to the amazing commitment of Tammy who started the rescue centre and Claire, along with their families and a fantastic group of volunteers (more always needed if you have any spare time), the charity currently has 27 ponies in its care.
The aim is to rehome them, although unfortunately this is not always possible, some never recover enough physically or psychologically from their past life.
I spent a few hours with Tammy and Claire and some of the ponies, learning about their work the stories behind them. They are relentless in their fundraising as for various reasons they don’t qualify for many of the grants available to other animal charities.
You may have seen them and their volunteers at local fetes and events, raising awareness and funds for the upkeep of the ponies. Not surprisingly mis-treated animals need more than their fair share of vet attention, medication and good quality food (natural herbs and alternative therapies are also used to help the ponies).
So this summer they have taken the brave move to organise their own summer fete which is on Sunday 14th August just outside Colyton (on the back road out of Colyton towards Sidmouth).
If you can support them in any way they will be extremely grateful, turn up on the day to join in the fun, provide a raffle prize even just tell your friends and family about the event. You can also sponsor a pony with a regular donation.
At the moment the centre is not open to the public without an appointment but they are hoping to get some picnic benches and basic facilities at their Colyton Hill site where you will be able to sit, admire the ponies and enjoy the stunning views with a picnic.
Summer Fetes and Fairs for 2016
Sunday 14 August
Munchkins Shetland Pony Summer Fair
Head along and join in the summer fun from 11am, children can groom a pony and there will be all sorts of fun. Munchkins Barn, nr Colyton, EX24 6HU
Here’s a link to their website: click here
Dalwood Village Fair
Saturday 20 August
Starts with a children’s Medieval themed fancy dress, judging at 1.30. Entrants then parade and the main gates open at 2pm, £2.50 adults, children free.
Also featuring this year: Horsemen of the Knight (equestrian stunt team), a dog agility display and a fun dog show.
One of the oldest village fairs in the South West, this event never fails to please. Follow the signs for parking. Teas are at the old school site (Folly Nursery) which is the village recreation field.
Seward’s Coaches will provide a bus service to and from the fair from Axminster and Honiton.
Monday 29th August.
Hawkchurch Village Fair
The main fair on Bank Holiday Monday at 2pm is preceded by a week of local fun activities including:
Monday 22nd – Family Beetle Drive (a bit like playing hangman) 7pm
Wednesday 24th – Bingo 7.30pm
Thursday 25th – Devon Air Ambulance Presentation 7.30pm
Friday 26th – fun Family Rounders game at 6pm and from 8pm a children’s Disco & BBQ (BYO)
Saturday 27th – free Teddy Bears picnic and parachuting event at 12 noon (make your teddy a parachute in advance)
Sunday 28th – Companion Dog Show (it’s quite serious!)
Monday 29th – Main Fete from 2pm, come and say hello to me in the tea tent!
More details on the village’s facebook page
Saturday 3 Sept
Chardstock Village Street Fayre
Another great local fete that spreads itself out across the village featuring all sorts of activities.
A lovely way to end the summer with the event stretching into the evening with live music.
More details via facebook: Chardstock Street Fayre
Other great local village fairs to look out for earlier next year:
Stockland (May Bank Holiday) , Uplyme, Kilmington, Axmouth and many others. Don’t forget to check my events pages for more local things to do ideas.
Lots of fun for all ages and remember you are supporting local organisations and charities by taking part.
P.S: Footwear tip- flip flops are usually great for a village fete unless we’ve had some rain, then you will need your wellies!