Sheep shearing competition in Faygate

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Sheep shearers flocked to take part in a new shearing competition in Sussex last week.

Southern Shears UK has been set up by a small group of farmers, shearers and enthusiasts keen to promote the skill of sheep shearing and encourage new entrants to the profession. Sponsors include the National Farmers’ Union and the National Sheep Association.

The competition took place at Holmbush Farm, Faygate, West Sussex. There was a Novice, Junior, Open, Blades and Ladies Class.

The competition attracted 23 shearers, including seven women. Judge Laurence Carter said: “I’ve never seen so many lady shearers.” Shearers from Devon, Wiltshire, New Zealand and Poland competed alongside local contractors. Competitors ranged in age from 19 to 69.

In the Ladies Class, Jo Cutting from Rye, whose personal best is 250 sheep shorn in one day, was beaten by 0.02 points by Susie Parish, sheep and alpaca shearer from Hampshire. While Kirsty Tester from Arundel sheared for the first time in a competition. Her husband, David Tester, competed in the Open Class. The couple were cheered on by their children.

The Blades Class promoted the traditional skill of hand shearing. The two entrants, George Mudge, 66, from Devon and Forty Bush, 48, from Wiltshire, both represent England in the World Blades Shearing Competition. The class was won by Forty Bush.

The Novice Class, for non professional shearers, saw six graduates of the sheep shearing course at Plumpton College shear two sheep each.

Competitors included Ruth Carroll, a qualified hairdresser from Eastbourne and Robert Robertson, 69, from Lewes, a retired computer programmer and smallholder. The class was won by Luke Williamson, 26, a dairyman from Lindfield.

The Junior Class, won by Susie Parish, saw Andrew Pannell, 23, from Worthing, who shears around 3,000 sheep a year, competing for the first time.

The Open Class, for the most experienced shearers, saw 11 professionals battling to be the winner of the Holmbush Farm World Cup. Bonnie Morrison, from New Zealand, had the highest annual tally, shearing 80, 000 sheep a year. While Reg Benjamin, 52, also from New Zealand, has shorn 1.5 million sheep so far in his career.

The highlight of the day was the Open Final. Ed Gingell, 28, from Heathfield, Malcolm Sweeney, 31, also from Heathfield and Cam Hicks,22, from New Zealand sheared 20 sheep each in sizzling temperatures. Ed Gingell, the winner, finished in less than 17 minutes.

Vice Chair and Shearing Contractor Rob Morris from Rye said: “We achieved what we set out to achieve, to promote shearing in the South East and to encourage more people to enter shearing.”

Chair of Southern Shears UK and Lecturer at Plumpton College, Phil Hart said: “The highlight for me was seeing the Novice shearers being first on the stand at the end after watching a thrilling 20 sheep open final, inspired and full of enthusiasm to help shear the remaining 40 sheep. Shearers from all classes joined in to help out. A great team effort.”