It was 215 years ago that the sun first shone on one of England's most famous country fairs – and it was shining again yesterday at Widecombe-in-the-Moor despite the few clouds that darkened some of Dartmoor's distant tors.
Among the 12,000 or so people who visited the fair this year were 15 members of a Swiss delegation visiting Devon to launch a form of twinning partnership between their own alpine valley and the Dartmoor area.
What Uncle Tom Cobley and all would have thought about an international accord being launched at the fair is not known – presumably they'd have approved if they'd known the new link with Switzerland has the potential of boosting Dartmoor's farming industry and tourism offer.
A spokesman for the Swiss delegation said: "This is a fantastic event – we didn't expect to see anything as traditional as this. I think many Swiss people would love to come and see the fair."
The partnership was formed so farmers and tourism providers on Dartmoor can swap ideas and practices with Swiss counterparts.
One of the organisers, Andy Bradford of Brimpts Farm, commented: "The Swiss invented the idea of marrying up farming and tourism more than 40 years ago – so we have a lot to learn from them."
The unique partnership – the first of its kind to see an English upland area teaming up with a European mountain district – will be the subject of a short series of articles in the WMN soon.
In the meantime the Swiss delegates met modern versions of Uncle Tom Cobley and All and learned that there really was a man of that name who used to attend Widecombe Fair in the days when autumn stock sales were vital to the hill farmers who needed to be rid of excess cattle and sheep they'd raised during spring and summer.
The Wag of Widecombe, otherwise known as Tony Beard, said: "Uncle Tom really did exist – he is buried down at Spreyton churchyard. And his story is a real part of this event's long history – the farmers up here were very good at raising cattle and sheep in spring and summer, but when autumn came they wouldn't have had enough fodder to keep them.
"Farmers down in areas like Spreyton grew tons of cereals, so had plenty of feed. That was why they'd all come up to the autumn sales at Widecombe.
"There were sales going here for centuries before 1802 when the records for this fair began," said the Widecombe Wag. "And they walked all the animals down to the low lying areas, which is why so many wanted a ride up on Uncle Tom's horse."
Simon Butcher, show vice-chairman at the show, said: "Since we opened the field and no longer charge to come in – we just charge for the car parks – we're getting more people.
"We've gone out on the moor with park-and-ride schemes to bus people in. It is world famous – we get a big following on Facebook. It costs £40,000 just to put the show on each year after that everything goes to charities, this year to help find a cure for multiple sclerosis."