- Britain’s top ploughmen and women will be battling it out this October to find the British Ploughing Champions for 2023 when around 100 hectares of land, kindly loaned by K S Coles and Family, will be taken over at Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton, Somerset on 14th and 15th October
Over 250 competitors will be vying for the British titles in 15 different ploughing classes over the two days – reversible, conventional, vintage trailed, vintage hydraulic, classic, classic reversible, horticultural, high cut, crawlers, club classes and magnificent heavy horses. Even though a huge chunk of the site is taken by the competitions, it’s not just about the ploughing.
It’s a wonderful way to see the changes in our farming heritage, there will be eighteen pairs of horses ploughing on each day showing the steady pace from a bygone age when it took a day to plough an acre. Next came steam ploughing engines which can be seen working – these date back to late nineteenth or early twentieth century, when contractors would trundle through the countryside from farm to farm with these giant engines, running a ridden plough along a steel cable from one engine to another. Vintage tractors then came along in the 20th century (though obviously they weren’t vintage then, they would have been seen as amazing things to mechanise agriculture). Then we have the most up-to-date machinery from the 21st century, on display on trade stands and working demonstrations.
With trade stands, shopping stalls, crafts and plenty of static vintage tractors and machinery on display, the British National Ploughing Championships & Country Festival promises to be a great day out.
Out of the 250 or so competitors, there are quite a few families taking part this year, some ploughing in different classes but others will be doing their utmost to beat a relative or two in the same category. The vintage trailed class seems to be the hottest to be contested, competitors include father and son, Bill and David Wood from the Scottish Borders; grandfather and grandson, Steve Webster and Jack Gilbert (aged 17) from Derbyshire; and grandfather and grandson, John and Ben Milnes from South Yorkshire. John’s other grandson, Fraser Cartwright, will also be competing in the vintage hydraulic class.
The crawler ploughing class sees father and son, John and Liam Quick from Berkshire taking part; the conventional class has Nigel and Stuart Vickers from Shropshire and Nigel’s wife Janet will also be competing in the David Brown Championship. Cousins Morgan Evans and John Jones, both young farmers from Swansea will both be in the conventional class.
The horse ploughing class is another hotbed of family rivalry! Stuart Green from North Yorkshire will be competing against his daughter, Charlie and the Kerswell brothers will be literally walking the straight and narrow to try and beat each other. Martin lives in Hampshire and David and Daniel are both in Devon and at last year’s British Championships held in Derbyshire, the three of them not only drew plots side-by-side on the second day, they were also placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively, with Martin also taking the overall British Horse Ploughing Champion title.
Other families taking part but in different classes are fathers and sons – from Warwickshire, Graham Sutton (classic reversible) and Thomas (reversible); from South Yorkshire, Andrew Marshall (Ferguson) and William (conventional); from Bedfordshire, Richard Cook (crawler) and James (vintage trailed); and 20-year old Josh Bullard (classic) from Royston, Hertfordshire and his older sister, 23-year old Ellie Bullard (conventional). One pair to watch are the current British and European Vintage Champion, Lincolnshire’s John Crowder who ploughs in the vintage trailed class and his new wife, Laura, who will be ploughing in the Ford & Fordson class for the first time. John proposed to Laura when he won last year’s European Vintage Ploughing Championships in Northern Ireland and they were married just a few weeks ago.
Mark Turner, Chairman of the Society of Ploughmen, who are organising the Championships, said, “We have a superb team of volunteers who are ready to organise a great event. We have tremendous support in Somerset and we are looking forward to a fantastic event at Bishops Lydeard. It’s good to see so many young competitors this year and a few more ladies too!”.
Main sponsors of the Championships are Bridgestone Firestone and Aztec Oils and further support has been given by A R Demolition, Bridgwater Agricultural Society, Cheffins, Dales Agri Sales Agency, Friends of Ferguson Heritage and Tama Farm Grown Solutions.
Admission to the event is £15 per person on the day and just £2 for children; discounted ticket are now available online with early bird discounts. The event will be easy to find, it’s about 6 miles north of Taunton, just off the A358 (Taunton to Minehead Road). Further information and can be found on www.ploughmen.co.uk or from the Society of Ploughmen on 01302 852469, Facebook or Twitter.