Women urged to join ploughing contest

ploughwomen hurst
Kerry, a Shire and Summer, a Clydesdale, ploughing with Kevin Mailing. It takes six hours toclean each harness's leather and brass Picture: Sue Corcoran

Ploughwomen are being encouraged to enter a rural competition which attracted two thousand visitors after a two year break.

About 50 ploughmen competed at the Royal East Berkshire Agricultural Association’s ploughing match on Sunday on the Wargrave/Waltham St Lawrence border.

Association chair Alan Keene said: “Sadly there were no ladies [ploughing] and we would certainly like to see some.

“There are also very few young tractor drivers which is worrying because the population of ploughmen competing is getting older and as they retire they are not being replaced.”

He added: “Very little commercial ploughing is done on farms in our area nowadays for all sorts of environmental and husbandry reasons.

“Ploughing is becoming one of many traditional skills that are only kept alive by enthusiasts wanting to practice the old crafts and by people who are keen to watch them. Hence why ploughing matches are as popular as ever.”

Two Wokingham ploughmen were among Sunday’s winners.

Nathan Smith’s five years of hard work restoring his great grandfather’s 1964 Fordson Super Major tractor were rewarded. He won the prize for best maintained classic tractor at the match.

The former Forest School student, who lives at Hatch Farm, Sindlesham, said: “I’m over the moon about it, very happy. It was the first show I’ve been to with the tractor since restoring it. All my family still do the ploughing matches. It’s a great tradition to carry on.”

Mr Smith, 22, runs his own business doing hedge cutting, paddock maintenance and other work. He is also a tractor driver for some hay and straw merchants.

Farmer Mark Burrows, 52, was first in his class for ploughing using his vintage 1944 standard Fordson N tractor. He also had the best maintained vintage tractor. “I do about eight matches a year, as many as I can,” he said.

He and his brother own Targetts Farm, Maidenhead Road, Wokingham where the business includes 45-50 acres of hay production. Their grandfather bought the farm on a visit to Bracknell cattle market in 1934.

The match included ploughing using old and modern tractors, horse ploughing, a fun dog show, a falconry display, tractor rides, trade stands and stalls. Hall Hunter Premium Berry Growers of Wokingham helped stock a fruit and vegetable display. The event at Church Farm was by permission of the owners David Philp and partners.

Heavy rain stopped the match’s tractor ploughing in 2019 and Covid cancelled last year’s match. Chair Mr Keene said: “After two years with no tractor ploughing everybody was keen to get back into the swing. Some of the regular ploughing matches on the calendar have still not managed to restart, which helped us to attract more entries.”

He added: “Some people may assume that farmers host ploughing matches as a way of getting their fields ploughed on the cheap but actually the opposite is true. Ploughing matches cause significant disruption to the farmer’s routine husbandry and we are very grateful to those who generously provide their land so that we can put on our show.”

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