Grand National comes to town

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Barry Nealon, chairman of the Memorial hospital, draws the winner at last year's raffle

If you thought the Grand National was for horses and was held at Aintree you’d be wrong. It’s for dogs – and will be held at The Rye Show at Lea Barn Farm on Saturday. Old age, short legs and fat stomachs need be no barrier as there are no “classes”: “It’s a free for all,” said Simon Compton, one of the organisers – and it’s likely to be the same runaway success it was last year.

But horses are not overlooked – not when the show started out as a horse show – and the impressive schedule of events will fill three rings throughout the day. There are the usual popular show-jumping classes, with some extra ones for younger riders, showing classes, gymkhana, a series of clear-round jumping competitions with masses of cups,  prizes and rosettes to be won.

The Rye Show was first held, as a horse show, back in 1955, and has gradually grown into a full day of mixed events for horses and dogs, displays, parades, music (the Sussex Stompers) and entertainment (mini quad bikes, bouncy castle among others).

Join in: maybe your dog can’t jump but it could win the “Scruffiest Dog”, “Best Rescued” or the pair of you could be voted “Best Odd Couple”. Then there’s the fancy dress competition – plus one for the horses.

An impressive list of displays includes terrier racing (can get noisy!), gun dog display, behavioural training, the Watermill Wolves animal acting team, plus falconry. Standing by will be heavy horses (guess the weight) and the oldest pack of bloodhounds in the country – they love to be cuddled.

There are bound to be some for whom four wheels are more appealing than four hooves/paws. Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Ford, Triumph and Morris are just some of the marques among the 100+ classic cars bringing back memories of bygone days, with owners itching to share their knowledge.

When it’s time to recuperate head for the Country Fair where you’ll find a vintage tea room, a Pimm’s bar, giant popcorn, candyfloss – and lots of other refreshments.

This is the biggest fund-raising event of the year for the Rye, Winchelsea and District Memorial Hospital. With about 2,500 visitors, the show usually raises about £5,000. Rather than contributing to general expenses, the donation goes towards an item of major expenditure, currently the purchase and development of the old ambulance station.

The raffle is a major contributor to profits, thanks to the continuing generosity of local sponsors (tickets are £5 a book of five). This year’s prizes are topped by an iPad mini, plus a Kindle, dinner at the Mermaid Inn, a hamper (including champagne), £100-worth of garden vouchers, a toaster/kettle set and a signed Man United team football.

Rye Community Transport will run a shuttle service between various points in town and the show site. Entrance for pedestrians is free. The fee for a car, including all passengers and parking, is £5.

Show date is Saturday August 16. The horse show starts at 8am, dog show at 10am (with the Grand National at about 2.15pm) and the draw for the raffle is at 4pm. The place to be is Lea Barn Farm, Rye Foreign, TN31 7ST, on the A268 about 2 miles north of Rye.

Photo Rye Hospital