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Rural life celebrated as South of England Show opens

The Duchess of Cornwall was the guest of honour

The Duchess of Cornwall was the guest of honour today at the South of England Show at Ardingly in Sussex.

The royal even took time out of her schedule to 'knight' one of the visitors - the actor Callum Arnott. In the absence of a sword, a Sussex-grown leek was used to mark the occasion.

Actor 'knighted with a leek' - a moment of fun during the tour of Ardingly's South of England Show

The three-day event is celebrating its 50th year at the Ardingly showground and though the skies were heavy and grey, the rain held off, and the crowds turned up. Derek Johnson reports

Duchess visits South of England Show at Ardingly

The Duchess of Cornwall visits the Plumpton College area at Ardingly

The South of England Show has begun with a special visit from Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. The Duchess is the president of The South of England Agricultural Society. This year marks the charity's 50th year of supporting agriculture and the countryside.

The Duchess of Cornwall takes a tour of the displays

The show at the 150 acre South of England Showground near the village of Ardingly in West Sussex lasts for three days and celebrates the best in agriculture and rural life in the region.

Her Royal Highness has chosen Brooke to be the Society's charity for this year. Brooke is an international animal welfare charity dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules. The Duchess of Cornwall became Brooke's first President in 2006.

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More than 1,800 lights put on Britain's tallest tree

A view of Britain's tallest Christmas tree at Wakehurst Place in Sussex, fitted with an estimated 1800 lights following its official switch on Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/PA Images

More than 1,800 lights have been put on Britain's tallest Christmas tree, enabling it to be used as a beacon for planes landing at nearby Gatwick Airport.

Standing at around 110ft tall, the giant redwood at Wakehurst Place near Ardingly, West Sussex, is the UK's largest living festive tree. It was first decorated outside Wakehurst's Elizabethan mansion 23 years ago, and was planted in the 1890s as one of the first exotic trees on the 500-acre estate.

It takes a team of arboriculturalists all day in two cherry pickers to put up the LED bulbs and remeasure the tree at Wakehurst, a National Trust site run by Kew Gardens.

Wakehurst's director Tony Sweeney said: "The tree is approximately 120 years old and we're expecting it to have grown around a foot. The tree has great vitality and it will continue to grow at an impressive rate for many more years to come."

The tree is one of Wakehurst's great survivors, weathering the Great Storm of 1987 and many other gales since, including Storm Barney this week. Following the decoration and testing of the lights, the illuminations will be switched on on December 4 to mark the start of Wakehurst's Glow Wild Lantern Festival.

Sun shines on 'best in show'

It's shaping up as a challenging year for the region's farmers - a year that started with hundreds of acres of farmland swamped by floods.

But the sun shone today for the start of the South of England Show and the message to consumers from farmers was simple - buy local.

Andy Dickenson was there and spoke to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson MP, Minette Batters of the NFU, and Michael Lambert of the South of England Society.

Man had beer thrown over him after confrontation

The man police would like to speak to about the incident Credit: Sussex Police

A 76-year-old man had a pint of beer thrown over him during a confrontation in a pub.

The victim was at the Gardeners Arms pub in Selsfield Road, Ardingly on Thursday 15th August when a man approached him, criticised him and began pointing at the victim's face.

When he tried to walk away, the man threw a pint of beer at him.

PC Grant Jones said, "I am keen to speak to anyone else who was in the Gardeners Arms on 15th August and who saw the drink being thrown or the events leading up to it.

"They may have only seen or heard part of what happened but we would still like to speak to them as soon as we can."

Anyone with information should call 101 quoting serial 776 of 16 August.

VIDEO: Olympic shooter stars in countryside show

Organisers of the Autumn South of England Show say they saw bumper crowds today.

With the harvest in, many farmers are already busy planting next years crops. As well as dog trails, game cooking and woodcarving demonstrations visitors enjoyed clay pigeon shooting - and the chance to be taught by local Commonwealth Champion Charlotte Kerwood.

Andy Dickenson reports. He also speaks to Michael Lambert, Chairman of the South of England Agricultural Society, and Michelle Nuds, Vice Chairman of the Autumn Show.

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Seeds collected for future generations

The wildflower seeds are collected by the Kew Millennium Seed Bank Credit: Brighton and Hove council

Seeds from Bevendean Down have been gathered and stored in the Kew's Millennium Seed Bank to preserve them for future generations.

The project aims to collect seeds from the country's best downland sites to create new wildflower sites in the city centre.

The seeds were collected with a special 'brush harvester' machine which brushes the top of the meadow to knock the seeds out and catch them.

Volunteers have also been hand harvesting seed that can not be collected mechanically, from a variety of sites.

Brighton and Hove City Council Leader Jason Kitcat said: "We are delighted that Kew has recognised how good the site is and have targeted it to use for seed collection for the Millennium Seed Bank. It's a fitting tribute to the hard work and team effort."

Seeds are collected by hand Credit: Brighton and Hove council
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