I looked like I’d been plucked from a shooting party. The other girls looked like they’d been plucked from St. Moritz.
Months ago, as a Shropshire hunting neophyte, I was anxious to fit in with the farmers and their families with whom I ride at least once, sometimes twice, a week. So I donned appropriate gear for a pre-meet breakfast: wellies, Barbour and a tweed cap.
The ‘oh-don’t-you-look country’ yelps I got tipped me off even before I entered the pub. While I looked like I’d been plucked from a posh shooting party, all the other girls looked like they’d been plucked from St. Moritz: all skin-tight jeans, Ugg boots and fur gilets.
Who’s the country bumpkin now, I had to ask myself. That’s when it dawned on me I was witnessing a new social phenomenon: the rise of the farming class.
Tired of being condescended to by the local landowner, they want to flex their new financial muscle. The irony is while the posh landed gentry struggle to cling to their estates with ever more desperate schemes, the farmers have been quietly acquiring and profiting from the best asset class of all over the last ten years: farmland.
Rising food prices and demand for biofuels has put their land at a premium and their agricultural products are in heavy demand. So now they flaunt their newfound wealth with multiple fancy horses, shiny Range Rovers, designer handbags and fur jackets.
I found myself coveting the horse trailer of the local butcher when I was invited inside for tea at the end of chilly hunt. It was more comfortable and better appointed than most Manhattan apartments.
So I was not surprised at this weekend’s point-to-point (amateur steeplechasing) meet at Bitterley hosted by the Ludlow Hunt to see them out in force in all the latest gear. ‘They’re like mini-WAGs,’ remarked my husband. ‘Victoria Beckham is their idol.’
While the farmers’ women wore silk blouses and scarves, the men also dressed surprisingly slickly, in shiny boots, tight trousers and tops. And why not? In doing so, they are distancing themselves from the still-Barbour-clad posh set who can no longer afford the toys, and left them looking like a relic of a bygone era, which maybe they are.
But if modern economics has taught us anything, it’s that even the worm turns, so betting on the dark horse might not be a bad bet after all.