Ploughing Championships Comes to Taunton

Heavy horses and a multitude of tractors, both vintage and modern, will be ploughing the straightest furrow as ploughmen and women descend on a Somerset village in October when this year’s British National Ploughing Championships & Country Festival will be held at Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton on 14th and 15th October.

A tremendous entry of over 260 of local champions from throughout Great Britain will take part in various classes over the two days, including world style conventional and reversible ploughing, vintage trailing, hydraulic and classic ploughing, classes for Ferguson tractors, David Browns, Ford and Fordson, horticultural machinery, stylish high cut ploughing and two days with 19 pairs of magnificent heavy horses.  The event is the highlight of the ploughing calendar and competitors travel from far and wide to compete – the furthest travelling around 500 miles from Perthshire in Scotland.

In its’ 67 year history, the Championships  have only been held in Somerset on five previous occasions – they have been held at Nynehead, near Wellington three times, in 1954, 1971 and 1995; at Halse near Taunton in 1963 and more recently at Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton in 2011.

The event will be brought back to Bishop’s Lydeard once again by the kind invitation of landowner K S Coles and family.  K S Coles Ltd, based at Chelston, near Wellington, is a family owned vegetable grower and packer business who supply some of the country’s leading supermarkets with swede, peas and broad beans and they are giving up 200 acres of their prime land for the weekend in October.

The ploughmen and women take great pride in their skills and showcasing the art of ploughing and will be competing for various titles including  British Conventional, Reversible, Young Farmers, Vintage and Horse Champion and of course, Supreme Champion.  Some of the winners will have the honour of representing their country in next year’s World and European Ploughing Championships, traditionally held in a different part of the world each year.

Out of so many competitors, only four of them are ploughwomen – young farmer Ellie Bullard from Royston, Hertfordshire, who will turn 17 in October, will be hoping to beat the men in the World Style conventional ploughing class with her Nuffield tractor and Kverneland plough; and the other three ladies are all competing in the horse ploughing classes.  Bryony Gill from St Austell in Cornwall, Vannessa Morris from Winchester, Hampshire and Jane Muntz-Torres from Solihull, West Midlands will be showing their grit when trudging behind their horses showing their skills in keeping this great art alive and taking us back to the days when it would take a ploughman – or woman – a full day to plough an acre.  In contrast, the latest agricultural machinery on sale today will be demonstrated by manufacturers and local companies, showing tractors and machines able to cover the same amount of land in less than an hour.

Despite the title, the event isn’t just about ploughing.  It offers a great day out for anyone with a love of the countryside and attracts a wide variety of visitors – farmers with an interest in working the land, to see the working demonstration and the extensive trade stand area with companies offering them new machinery, tyres, seeds, insurance and many other agricultural businesses.  Lovers of horses come to relive and ponder the slower pace and admire the beauty and skills of these magnificent animals.  Vintage tractor enthusiasts can see many makes and ages of tractors working on the land; and steam enthusiasts will be able to see giant steam ploughing engines demonstrating ploughing and cultivating the fields.  People with a love of the countryside will come to take in the atmosphere and see some fantastic rural exhibits with the themes of ‘Welcome to Somerset’ and ‘From Horse to Horse Power’.

Organisers of the Championships, registered charity the Society of Ploughmen, are expecting an exceptional crowd over the two days as it also gives families a unique insight to see how our farming heritage has changed over the past 300 years – older generations will be able to reminisce as they will remember the vintage equipment or horses actually working on farms in the past; and children can see how our farming has changed from horses through to steam, vintage tractors right through to the modern day equipment.  There will also be trade stands, shopping stalls, country crafts and tractor and trailer rides to get around the huge site.

Main sponsors of the event are Firestone Tyres and additional support has been given by Bridgwater & District Agricultural Society, Friends of Ferguson Heritage, Old20 Parts, Mole Valley Farmers, Watson Fules and Wessex Agri.

Chairman of the Society of Ploughmen, John Hill, himself an ex-World Champion ploughman, said, ”We are so pleased to be coming back to Somerset this year as the welcome we had when we were here in 2011 was second to none!  Our hosts, those taking part, our visitors, our volunteers – everyone was so friendly that it added to a really great atmosphere and I’m looking forward to this once again.  I love ploughing myself, but you don’t have to as anyone can come along and have a really great day out”.

Mr Hill added, “We are fortunate to have superb hosts with the Coles family and the site is adaptable enough to allow any extra space needed for trade stands and crafts, so we can accommodate all those companies who want to come along and enhance the ploughing spectacle with a fantastic trade exhibition.”

The Championships will take place on land about 6 miles north of Taunton off the A358 at Bishop’s Lydeard and will be well signed from major roads in the vicinity.

Further information can be found on www.ploughmen.co.uk or from the Society of Ploughmen on  01302 852469 and you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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