HARROGATE looked spectacular at the weekend as the Tour de France circus came to town. When we talk about introducing continental culture to England, this was a text book example of how to do it, but the anti-climax afterwards was near cataclysmic.

The sense of loss; our Grand Départ was gone, never to return. Tears were shed in Bettys. Thank goodness, then, for the Great Yorkshire Show, which, this year, is more important than ever, if our spirits are to be lifted.

Fortunately they were and quickly. While doom and gloom was forecast on breakfast TV, the rain stayed away until after lunchtime and the showground basked in morning sunshine.

It brought the crowds too and soon the arena was a repeat picture of the Stray last Saturday.

Indeed organisers are expecting more than 135,000 visitors this week, two of them royal, including The Countess of Wessex who yesterday made her first ever appearance at England's premier agricultural event and got up close with a Stellar sea eagle called Camilla.

Perhaps the 156 year-old show's roots are still its strongest feature and some 5,000 of Britain's finest cattle, sheep, and pigs, not to mention 2,000 horses and ponies will be vying for awards.

These days, though, the emphasis is only partly on farming. This is a family affair with its fashion catwalk, art pavilion and 1,200 trade stands catering to our every whim, as well as quite a few we didn't know we had.

In the main ring Lorenzo returned with his team of ten horses to steal the show; he always does.

Unlike the gone-in-flash Grand Départ, there's still another couple of full days to look forward to, including tomorrow when the Princess Royal will be guest of honour and Lorenzo will again steal the show in the main ring, just like he always does.

Online sales for advance tickets have now ended, they can now be purchased on the gate and cost; adult £25.00, concession (age 60+ & students) £24.00, child (age 5 - 18) £11.00 family (2 adults & 3 children) £64.00.