Sunday, November 28, 2021

The Nelson A&P Show - 20 - 21 November 2021 - Wood Chopping


Golden Edge Nelson A&P Show at Richmond Park

Nelson A&P Show

Axemen and Axe Women

The crowds that usually attend the large Golden Edge Nelson A&P Show at Richmond Park were absent this year due to Covid restrictions.

It hasn’t dulled the enthusiasm of the participants who come to the show to compete in various events. The Nelson show continued to go on for its 127th year.

For many participants, the Nelson event was one of the only shows left on the calendar for 2021 as most of them have been cancelled completely.

This year there were no children’s rides, no sheep to cuddle and no poultry.

The number of exhibits submitted by the school children in various categories (Children’s & Youth Schedule) was surprising and of high quality. 

Participants came from all over the South Island to attend the Nelson A & P Show even though only families of those people taking part could attend. 

Only Family members could attend

There has not been a year like this since 1893 when the Nelson A & P Association was founded, to promote and encourage agricultural and pastoral activities. 

The year of the influenza outbreak and during World War II there was a break in having the A&P show and now with the flip flop world we are living in there is a reduced event, no public could cheer on the participants, a lot of whom travelled a long way to compete in the events. 

It was pleasing to see such a large contingent of parents attending to support the participants young and older who took part.

It was a challenging year for the Nelson A&P Association, but they were able to run their annual Show despite being in a reduced format. Even though the show was cut in size the A&P Staff, Committee, Volunteers, Stewards, Marshalls and Judges, put a great deal of work into this year's event with the support of all the sponsors and clubs behind the scenes.

A lot of events were still put on, like Shearing and Highland Dancing on Saturday and the events happening all weekend; the Wood Chopping competitions, the TOTS mounted Equestrian Games, the animal competitions (including the normal Equestrian Section) and all the usual indoor competitions  - Cookery, Horticulture, Photography, handcraft, the children's Competitions and the Wine & Beer Competitions.

On Saturday the Show was quiet and by Sunday all the food stalls had gone except for the coffee vendor and there was just a slow trickle of visitors to see the Children's competitions.

Wood Chopping Competition:

The Nelson Axemen's Club are the organisers behind the Wood Chopping Competitions at the Nelson A&P Show. The Woodchopping event is the largest in New Zealand with local participants and men and women coming from all over the South Island and some from the North Island.

Woodchopping is a heritage sport that dates back to the 1870’s. Starting in the New Zealand forests which was an early breeding ground for some of the country's most rugged axemen and sawyers. Those pioneering athletes held contests among themselves to see who were the best at felling trees and processing logs. These events form the basis of the sport as it is known today.

Some say that as a sport, woodchopping is more traditional to New Zealand than rugby. 

Parts of the weekend's action can be seen on the Nelson Axemen’s Club Facebook page.

On their Facebook page the Nelson Axemen’s Club thanked their sponsors from this year's A&P show and to all their sponsors who give them continued support without which they couldn’t put on such events.

In New Zealand, the sport doesn’t have a big following, with just 300-350 odd competitors, and it needs more people to ensure it doesn’t die out.

Over the weekend at the Show it was great to see so many young men taking up the sport. Seven in the restricted division were there on Saturday and eight on Sunday.  Toby Godsiff-Sulden from Golden Bay (see Photo)  was one young man in the restricted division who was there all weekend. The youngest of the restricted is only 13.

Toby Godsiff-Sulden

These young men tore into the wood despite being significantly younger than any other axemen.  I think some of them have fathers who are woodchoppers as well.

The restricted young men taking part in the woodchopping during the A&P Show were J Airey, T Godsuff, B Fisher, A Greig, R Terry, L Greig, O Mackenzie and C Robinson.  

Throughout the weekend there were about 50 axemen and axe women taking part in the competitions.

The axe women taking part were Emma  Shore, Emma Ridell, Ash Bradford and Lae Nadler.

Nearly all races are run using a handicapping system whereby the better axeman gives a head start to their less experienced competitors. Each axeman is given a ‘mark’ which denotes the number of seconds he or she has to wait before they can start.

You hear the axemen starter call “Okay, axemen, are you all ready? Righto, axemen. Axemen, stand your blocks,” words that haven’t changed for decades. Then he counts off the starts: “One, two, three…”

Ross Birchfield, one of the starters during the weekend at the Show, a 48 year member of the Nelson Axemen’s Club, said “that the Creighton Brothers Memorial Standing final was won by Ray Briggs of Richmond.

1st Ray Biggs.   2nd Stephen Winter   3rd  Jesse Whitehead  4th Adam Lowe

Also the Alec Headley Memorial Chop final was won by Dave McEwen.”

1st Dave McEwen 2nd Ray Biggs. 3rd Kyle Hedley  Ribbons presented by Cheryl Hedley

Jigger board Chop:

In order to fell a large tree it was often necessary to get above the roots and other growth at the tree’s trunk. To do this the axeman would stand on a perpendicular board (jigger board) wedged into slots cut into the tree trunk. Several boards would be used to climb to the required height. 

In today’s competition 2 or 3 boards are used to climb to a maximum height of around 2.5 meters. This event requires a lot of precision and skill and is normally the last discipline an axeman learns.

On Sunday the axemen were competing in the jigger board chop in the rain which I’m sure took extra skill. The guys chop up the poles, boards going into axe notches, climb down retreating boards, then up again with new axe notches and finally chop off the top.

The wood chopping community usually attracts a large crowd but only family were there last weekend to cheer them on.

It attracts the public as it is a thrilling sport which takes a unique combination of athleticism and technique together with power and strength as well as the ever present danger element.

Menzshed  Volunteers: 

The guys from the menzshed were at the woodchopping all weekend helping to clear away the wood after every chop. It was a hard, constant and demanding job to make sure the grounds were clear for the next chop.

Menzshed Men cleaning up

Pigeon Post News 2021

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