BEFORE I retired from fully active service, I always used to look forward to the month of August.

For many papers, it was the Silly Season, when councils and Parliament were in recess, many people were on holiday, and nothing much was happening in the world.

So barrels were scraped, and you got stories about giant puffballs, tortoises with three legs and a castor, and Fred Elliott’s face appearing on a rasher of bacon in a Rochdale butcher’s shop.

But there was no such nonsense for traditional papers like the Courant, for August was the month of wall to wall agricultural shows, where there was copy and photographs to be had in abundance.

After two summers bereft of shows, reporters have been left wondering how to fill those gaping spaces, that are normally filled by men cuddling sheep and different men cuddling leeks.

There were a couple of early starters on the show front , like the Tynedale Show at Corbridge, which evolved into the County Show, but I never got to cover that, as I was on the committee of the far more important Bellingham Fair which took place on the same day.

Bellingham Fair featured a hugely popular raft race over two miles of the River North Tyne, where contestants could expect to be battered with eggs and flour as they went under the Tyne Bridge to the finishing line.

Rafts were constructed from odd chunks of timber, plastic bottles and even discarded fuel tanks from an American plane on the Otterburn Ranges, but it was all great fun.

There was also a fancy dress football match where wives’ best frocks and sisters’ bridesmaids gowns were pressed into service by burly blokes for a boisterous kickabout.

The fair can also claim to have staged the first car boot sale in Tynedale, under the auspices of the North Tyne and Redewater Twisty Roads Preservation Society, Many folk were bewildered, wondering why anyone would want to buy a car boot without the rest of the vehicle, but the concept soon caught on. The Roman Wall Show took place in June, featuring lots of sheep and brawny farmhands grappling in long johns, vests and velveteen underpants.

It wasn’t until August though that the shows came thick and fast, with Slaley, Allendale, Falstone, Bellingham and Blanchland doing a conga through the schedules.

When I first started covering shows as a youngster, I thought I knew a fair bit about farming, having helped with the haymaking on my uncle’s farm, but I was soon lost in a confusing world of gimmers, hoggs that were not pigs, hounds that were not dogs, and alpacas that were not llamas.

I was also introduced to trail hounds, those lean and shaven beasts, that race for miles over hulking and bracken covered fells, before boiling into the showfield to a welcoming cacophony of whistles, shrieks, rattling tins and shaken blankets by their delirious owners.

Some shows had Kennel Club dog shows as an added attraction, where snooty Afghans and sleek salukis with high falutin multi titled names were endlessly groomed and primped to gain the eye of the judges.

The horse classes tended to go on from the opening bell to the time when most of the spectators had gone home, but all results had to be faithfully recorded in my already bulging notebook.

I always enjoyed the industrial tent, once I discovered it was not full of clanking machinery and spinning belts rescued from the smoking factories of darkest Tyneside.

Instead, the tent was filled with home baking, needlework, photographs, paintings and bizarre creatures made out of a cucumber, a couple of cherry tomatoes and a whole lot of ingenuity by the populace of the local schools.

The industrial tent also contained dressed sticks, wonderful works of art which were far too delicate to hook round the leg of a Bluefaced Leicester hell bent on escaping from the crowded sheep pens.

There was always lots to see in the main ring, where attractions I have witnessed – and sometimes taken part in – include pram jousting, the Kielder Water Monster Race and the world haggis hurling championship.and I have seen young girls being dragged giggling out of the beer tent in order to be dragged round the showfield on a sledge behind a quad bike

And in the skies there have been wing-walking demonstrations, swooping falconry displays and a visitation from the RAF Falcons parachute display team.

Tynedale has indeed been a duller place in the absence of these crowd-pullers, and let us all hope that the shows are back in full force next year.