A surprise Christmas present means a lifetime’s ambition is about to come true for a 16 year old girl when she steps into the spotlight to show sheep at England’s premier agricultural event.
Nicole Sandham from Yeadon, Leeds, is currently hard at work learning what is needed to impress the judges at next month’s Great Yorkshire Show where she will show Charollais sheep for a North Yorkshire farmer.
The opportunity is the result of a Christmas present from her mother, Deena, whose winning bid at a farming charity silent auction led to Nicole swapping her lessons in maths and history for ones in sheep showing, with the goal of a rosette from the farming showcase. The competition will be tough as the Great Yorkshire has one of the highest number of sheep entries of any show in the UK. Around 2,300 have been entered for the event which runs from Tuesday 8 – Thursday 10 July at the showground at Harrogate.
Deena explained: Nicole and I were in Otley when she spotted some booklets about a silent auction being run by the charity, Farming Community Network. There were dozens of lots but the one she picked out was the chance to show a sheep at the Great Yorkshire. I remember her saying: “how totally amazing would that be!
When she wasn’t looking I picked up a booklet and, unbeknown to her, I made a bid and won it. I kept it a surprise until Christmas Day when I put a card in her stocking saying: ‘Cinderella may not be going to the ball but you will be showing a sheep at the Great Yorkshire Show’. When she opened it her face lit up, she was absolutely ecstatic and said ‘I can’t wait to be there.
The lot had been given by Bedale farmer Ralph Alderson to support the charity which provides help to farmers and the farming community. Mr Alderson has around 90 pedigree Charollais sheep which he keeps at Carthorpe and has successfully shown at events around the country, including at the Great Yorkshire.
Mr Alderson said: Nicole has been here a couple of times to see what showing’s all about, and she’s doing amazingly well. She’s confident, but not over confident, is quiet around the sheep and has really taken to it. There’s a lot to learn but she’s doing really well. The competition will be fierce as it’s the best show in the country, but she certainly deserves to be successful.
Nicole has just finished studying for her GCSEs but will be up at the crack of dawn on Tuesday 8 July to help Ralph prepare the sheep and then take her turn in the judging ring.
Nicole said: I still can’t quite believe I’m going to be doing this.
I love working with animals and in September I’m hoping to go to Askham Bryan College at York to study agriculture.
To be competing at the Great Yorkshire Show will be amazing – I just can’t wait.
Although Nicole does not live on a farm, since childhood she has helped her grandparents with their sheep and now also assists with milking at a nearby farm. Nicole is a pupil at Horsforth School, Leeds.