Daredevil makes a splash at farmers' royal show
It's been a really lousy year for farmers, due entirely to the weather – first with a drought and then with an ongoing deluge, which threatened the harvest and mucked up pastures.
Forage stocks are low, forcing up prices for animal feeds, directly affecting all livestock farmers and particularly pig and poultry producers.
But record high prices on world markets, caused by shortages and a change towards western diets in the aspirant mega-nations of China and India have helped save the situation.
Of course, being realistic the Westcountry farming highlight of the year has been the decision by the Government finally to tackle the bovine TB situation and the reservoir of disease in the badger population.
One of my personal highlights was being able to break the news of where the initial pilot badger culls would take place (in West Somerset and around Tewkesbury) when the Government was being decidedly cagey about an announcement – even though it was really no big secret in farming circles.
Now the highly controversial culls, thoroughly imperfect though they may be, will go ahead next summer. Or will they? Defra Secretary Owen Paterson is determined they will, but this Coalition Government is notorious for U-turns, and if they can wriggle out of it and find another way they surely will. But the simply fact is we cannot go on killing 26,000 cattle a year because of TB and not do anything about a burgeoning, sickly and highly infectious badger population. It's an ongoing challenge.
How about something more lighthearted to look back on from 2012?
Well the county shows are always fun to cover for the WMN and this year's Royal Cornwall came up with a real corker: an elderly and overweight American belly-flopping into a very shallow pond of milk from a considerable height.
It could only happen in Cornwall.
At the Royal Bath & West the multitude from the Bristol and Bath conurbation who pour in for an annual dose of rural entertainment are used to slightly more sophisticated main-arena spectacles; like the Frenchman flying around in a micro-light followed by a flock of geese who think he's their mum, or a daredevil high-wire act, the latter-day Blondin teetering hundreds of feet up.
In Devon the stuffy lot who run the show would tut-tut at the proposal, think it vulgar and probably hide behind a Health & Safety regulation.
But it Cornwall "tiz a white oss of a diffrunt colour" altogether, and the prospect of witnessing serious injury, or even death, had them standing six deep around the ringside. They weren't exactly baying for blood, but, after all, these were people whose forebears used to walk dozens of miles to witness a public hanging up Bodmin (and of course I was one of them).
We weren't counting on the professional acumen of Darren Taylor, aka Professor Splash, though, who after an enormous build-up, fell 30 feet into a foot of Bill Clarke's best milk – and emerged bruised but otherwise unscathed.
There was a stiff westerly blowing and those of us standing up close and downwind of the pool should have known better.
An anticlimax? Certainly... but great publicity for the people at Trewithen Dairy.