Village ready to host heavy horse festival

John Fairbairn of Marshall Meadows, a keen supporter of driving. There has been an unusually high number of entries in the driving section of the events at Milfield Heavy Horse Festival. Photo supplied by Clydesdale International.
John Fairbairn of Marshall Meadows, a keen supporter of driving. There has been an unusually high number of entries in the driving section of the events at Milfield Heavy Horse Festival. Photo supplied by Clydesdale International.

A north Northumberland village is all set to host the first major heavy horse festival in the UK.

The event, to be staged in Milfield on Sunday, May 5, is expected to draw the crowds.

Interest has spread throughout Britain and beyond, with inquiries coming from the likes of Spain, France and Germany.

Funding of nearly £30,000 was won for the event which will not only celebrate rare breeds such as the Clydesdale, but also showcase old working skills and put Milfield on the map.

Milfield Heavy Horse Association (MHHA) put forward the plan to the Lottery Fund’s Village SOS competition and was delighted when its application for a grant of £29,700 was approved.

Viv Cockburn, of MHHA, believes the unique nature of the festival plan caught the judges’ attention.

Organisers hope to develop an annual event centred on the heavy working horse along with old working skills and practices.

Clydesdales are the breed traditionally associated with Northumberland, but the festival will bring together heavy horses from all over the UK, including Shires, Suffolk Punch and Percheron.

While all were once a common sight in the countryside, Clydesdale, Suffolk Punch and Percheron are now registered with the Rare Breeds Society.

Apart from the horses, there will be demonstrations of Northumbria Mounted Police, wheelwrights, master saddlers, farriers, birds of prey, sheep dogs, hay-making with horses and a vintage machinery rally as well as a farmers’ market, craft stalls and small cottage craft displays.

Commentary will be from Mike Keeble while the judging of pure breeds will be by Tom Brewster. He will also judge the turnouts, of which there will be singles, pairs and teams.

The ridden Clydesdale element of the festival is a Blair Series Qualifier, and as the in-hand is affiliated to the Clydesdale Society, there will be a section for young handler and the Clydesdale Shield.

The event takes place at Whitton Hill Farm (NE71 6JD), from 9am to 5pm. Entry is £5, £2.50 children. Visit www.heavyhorsefestival.co.uk