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65 things you didn’t know about The Game Fair

It’s a blue sapphire year for The Game Fair


Charlotte Hill with tiercel peregrine named Ragley

To mark The Game Fair’s 65th anniversary, we have compiled a fun list of 65 things you may not know about the festival of the great British Countryside. This year, the hugely popular event is being held 28-30 July at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire.

  1. The event was originally co-founded by Colonel Sir John Ruggles-Brise, president of the Country Land Association (now the Country Land & Business Association) and Nigel Gray, a senior advisory consultant at the Imperial Chemical Industries Game Research Station, a forerunner for the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust.
  2. From 1958-2016, the event was known as ‘The CLA Game Fair’ while it was run by the CLA. It is now run by The National Game Fair and known simply as The Game Fair.
  3. The first ever Game Fair was held at Stetchworth Park in East Cambridgeshire with a budget of just £500, but it overran by £300.
  4. Entrance charges at the first Game Fair were modest; two shillings and sixpence per person (half-price for children, free for CLA members).
  5. There were just 55 exhibitors at the first event — today’s event attracts more than 1,000.
  6. This year, antique fishing tackle dealer Victor Bonutto is celebrating his 35th consecutive year exhibiting at The Game Fair.
  7. The total attendance at the first event was reported as 8,500, which exceeded all expectations.

    Exhibitor Andrew Hawksley sorts through fishing rods

  8. Fisherman’s Row did not feature at The Game Fair until the second event at Hackwood Park, Hampshire in 1959. It was the only time the Game Fair has ever used an artificially dug pond — every year since, existing lakes and rivers have been used.
  9. Long service medals were first awarded to gamekeepers at the Longleat event in 1962.
  10. The first person to fly in was the Duke of Gloucester, the event’s chairman, who flew in to Hackwood Park in 1959.
  11. In 1976, The Game Fair went to Wales for the first time, to Glanusk Park, Powys. That same year, HRH Prince Charles became the event’s new patron (following the death of the Duke of Gloucester in 1974).
  12. The first CLA Game Fair to be held in Scotland was at Blair Drummond, near Stirling, in 1964. It was organised and run by the Scottish Landowners’ Federation.
  13. The first event to suffer from serious traffic problems was held at Shotover, near Oxford, in 1965 — it hosted a record-breaking 41,000 people.
  14. The late Queen first attended The Game Fair in 1974, at Stratfield Saye in Berkshire — the same year that the Pugs & Drummers stand made its first appearance.
  15. The late Prince Philip once described the event as: “The most important shop window of our countryside.”
  16. Last year, the event was visited by The Princess Royal.
  17. Chatsworth was the first venue to be used more than once — the first time in 1966, followed by a repeat visit nearly a decade later in 1975.
  18. Over the years, the CLA worked hard to educate people about the danger of leaving dogs in cars — in 1999, 50 dogs a day were removed from cars at The Game Fair. By 2006 that figure was down to just one.
  19. In 2001, when The Game Fair was re-sited from Woburn Abbey to Shuttleworth Park due to foot-and-mouth, the event’s organisers were forced to buy fields of standing corn and cut it green in order to accommodate car parking.
    Carriage driving

    Carriage driving

  20. The cost of cancelling the 2007 event due to severe rainfall at Harewood House was put at £50 million — £12 million inside the show and £38 million in the surrounding region.
  21. In 2020, The Game Fair was cancelled due to the outbreak of Covid.
  22. In 1979, The Game Fair became a three-day event for the first time when it was held at Bowood in Wiltshire. Previously, the event had only been run on Friday and Saturday.
  23. Attendance first passed the magic 100,000 figure at Bowood in 1979 — in fact, it smashed the barrier and went on to 113,000 people.
  24. Attendance reached a record of 138,000 people in 2006, when it was held at Broadlands in Hampshire.
  25. The average attendance today is 120,000 visitors.
  26. Across six decades The Game Fair has now welcomed more than 5 million visitors.
  27. For 15 years, the event rotated between Belvoir Castle, Blenheim, Harewood and Broadlands.
  28. The event has been hosted at 28 different country estates over the years in all four corners of Britain, from Hampshire to County Durham and Powys to Dumfriesshire.
  29. More than 23,000 vehicles come and go to The Game Fair showground each day.
  30. The event uses storage tanks capable of holding 47,000 gallons of water and storing a similar amount of wet waste.
  31. The site spans 450 acres.
  32. More than 60 staff are employed on the clay lines, operating 120 traps.
  33. Roughly 140 tonnes of rubbish is created over the three days, managed by Biffa.
  34. Four miles of tentage are ordered by the organisers for exhibitors — that does not include tentage that exhibitors order on their own behalf.
  35. The Game Fair has a full-time team of 15 organisers and there will be 400 or so temporary contractors on site in July — they will work approximately 18,480 hours.
  36. During the three days of The Game Fair, 13,000 glasses of Pimm’s and 86,000 cups of coffee are dispensed by the caterers in the Investec Enclosure alone. In addition, 250 partridges and 185 game terrines will be consumed.
    Chef James Martin at The Game Fair

    Chef James Martin at The Game Fair

  37. This year is the fifth year that TV chef James Martin has fronted the on-site restaurant in the Invesetc Enclosure. He will oversee 3,000 covers across the three days as well as mingle with diners.
  38. 60,000 or so gallons of beer, lager and cider are drunk at The Game Fair.
  39. In 2017 The Game Fair joined forces with The British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) to offer complimentary entry tickets to their 150,000 members.
  40. Across the three days, Britain’s top 140 gundogs and 100 handlers will compete.
  41. In 1969, The Home International was launched which sees the four nations compete against one another in a series of demanding challenges designed to test each of the dog’s abilities. Last year Team Ireland claimed the top spot.
  42. In 2021, the HPR Home International was launched which sees teams of five dogs and handlers from each home nation showcase the best Hunt, Point, Retrieve breeds across the UK. Team England has won it both years so far.
  43. Foxhounds, bloodhounds, minkhounds, basset hounds, teckels and beagles from hunts across Britain will showcase the sport of trail hunting. Each day three hunts – both foot and mounted packs – will parade two-and-a-half couple of hounds in the main arena.
  44. The Game Fair always has an official charity each year. The Country Food Trust is this year’s beneficiary. The Atlantic Salmon Trust is the official charitable fishing partner.
  45. In 2018, the official charity was Lord’s Taverners who raised enough from the partnership with The Game Fair to buy a new specially adapted minibus for Fort Royal School.
  46. For the first time this year, The Game Fair has teamed up with the Environment Agency to offer rod licence holders in England and Wales a 20% discount on tickets.
  47. Every year The Game Fair attracts numerous well-known faces to speak in the Carter Jonas Theatre – this year visitors can listen to former F1 boss Ross Brawn, The Crown actor Jim Murray and comedian Paul Whitehouse.
  48. Around 3,500 visitors will have-a-go at clay shooting under the guidance of an instructor on the Subaru Shooting Line, which is the longest in Europe and run by E. J. Churchill.
  49. Around 1,100 clay shooters will compete in one or more of the competitions.
  50. More than 13,000 pellets will be fired on the airgun range under the watchful eye of instructors from Walton Lions Air Rifle Club and BASC.
  51. In 2016, Gunmakers’ Row became a registered trademark.
  52. Over the three days of The Game Fair the site becomes one of the biggest retail areas in the UK with around 1,000 stands.
  53. There are 900 camping pitches on site accommodating 4,500 people.
  54. For the first time this year, The Game Fair has moved away from a traditional printed show guide in favour of a digital version on an app called Gyder.
  55. In 2021, The Game Fair partnered with LAPADA, the UK’s largest association of art and antiques dealers, to create a dedicated pavilion to showcase furniture, fine art, jewellery and glass from 20 of its members.
  56. INEOS Automotive is The Game Fair’s official 4×4 partner for 2023 where they will be showcasing the Grenadier.
  57. This year will see the eighth Best Dressed Lady competition take place. Sponsored country clothing brand Welligogs, the hugely popular competition takes place on the first day of The Game Fair.
  58. The brand new Minority Breeds Gundog Competition, which is being organised and run by The Working Minority Retriever Club, will be contested in the Hertford Arena on the third and final day of The Game Fair. It will showcase the abilities, talents and versatility of gundog breeds that have historically received less attention than popular breeds.
  59. Last year, the inaugural Game Fair Casting Competition was launched. Run by the British Fly Casting Club, the competition consists of three rounds – first at The GWCT Scottish Game Fair, then The Game Fair and finally The GWCT Welsh Game Fair in September. Last year, 19-year-old Ayrshire-based plumber apprentice Robert Reid was crowned winner.
  60. Around 12,000 arrows will be fired by 1,000 visitors taking part in archery, overseen by instructors from Stratford Archers.
  61. The Game Fair is always visited by numerous top tier politicians including big names like Nigel Farage and Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown MP.
  62. Off-duty celebrities are often spotted enjoying The Game Fair – notable names include Phil Spencer, Adam Henson, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Joshua ‘JP’ Patterson, and Vinnie Jones.
  63. CJ’s Birds of Prey looks after the falconry display in the main arena. In 2021, Charlotte Hill brought along a young tiercel peregrine named Ragley, named after Ragley Hall where The Game Fair has been held seven times. They featured as the Frontispiece in Country Life last year.
  64. For the past six years, The Game Fair has been officially opened with a gun salute in the main arena, photographs of which have been featured in both The Times and The Telegraph.
  65. According to The Times, “The Game Fair is — the biggest, tweediest, most exotically be-hatted and sweatered, bearded and bewhiskered, horse-trotted and falcon-called, gundog-whistled and fly-cast, tannoyed and adjudicated clan gathering in the country-lover’s calendar.”

You might also like to read An A-Z of The Game Fair 2023


Gundog skills