The straightest furrow in Warwickshire

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More than 250 champion ploughmen and women from throughout Great Britain will soon be converging on a small village in Warwickshire to show their skills at this year’s British National Ploughing Championships & Country Festival which takes place on October 13th and 14th.

Over 250 acres of farmland next to the village of Austrey, near Atherstone has been loaned by the hosts, William Corbett Farms and John Upperdine and the Championships, traditionally held in a different part of the country each year, will also attract visitors from the north of Scotland to the southern corners of England.

Organisers of the event, the Society of Ploughmen, say the interest in and popularity of ploughing matches is definitely growing each year for both spectators and competitors alike.  The British Championships is the finale of local ploughing matches to find the Champions of Great Britain in various categories from ‘world style’ reversible ploughs to a multitude of vintage ploughing classes and probably the biggest crowd puller of all, heavy horses.

Competitors take a great pride in their work and though perhaps such precision is not required on farms nowadays, they show what could be done – and what can still be done – with less technology available and GPS is definitely not allowed to produce the straightest furrow at the Championships!

However, the event is not just about the ploughing and you don’t have to have to be an enthusiast to be able to visit the Championships and have an enjoyable day out.  Alongside the competitions, there will be an array of trade stands and machinery demonstrations with local and national companies showing the latest equipment.  Everything from tractors, trailers and machinery; drainage and irrigation; fuel, tyres, agronomy and precision farming;  tractor spares and tools.  Then there are the crafts and stalls with everything from garden furniture, basketware, walking sticks, signs, country clothing and hats.

Spectators will also have a real treat this year as the Great Steam Challenge will be held at the over the two days.  The Challenge doesn’t take place every year and this is only the 8thChallenge to be held in the past 24 years, so with 25 giant engines taking part, it will be a fantastic sight to see.  They will take up around 60 acres of the site and there will be some rare single cylinder engines taking part which date back to the 1860s, not often seen working together.

In the ploughing classes, there are five ‘Plough-Off Finals’ which will see ten finalists from five classes on the first day vying to win the Championship title in their chosen style of conventional, reversible, vintage trailed, hydraulic and classic ploughing.

The winners of the finals will be looking to win a place to represent their country at either the 2019 World or European Ploughing Championships, so competition will be fierce.  These winners, along with the high cut champion and the champion horse ploughman, will be judged to find the overall Supreme British Champion.   There are also classes for different types of tractors – Ferguson, David Brown and Ford & Fordson will all be taking part as well as crawler tractors and horticultural or garden tractors.

With static displays of vintage tractors and machinery, the steam, the tractors and horses working in the fields and the most up-to-date tractors and machinery of today, visitors will have a unique opportunity not only to see and appreciate the changes in farming over 200 years or so, but to see most of it working.

For this reason, children under 11 are given free admission to the Championships as the organisers want them to see and learn about our farming heritage.

The organisers of the Championships, the Society of Ploughmen, are a registered charity and Chief Executive, Sue Frith, commented:  “We need help to get word around about the British Championships  as the word “ploughing” doesn’t mean much to many people but it’s a really great, friendly and unique event and every age group can have an enjoyable day out.”

She added that “we are really looking forward to coming back to Warwickshire for the first time in 52 years and there is tremendous interest and support in the surrounding area.”

Main sponsors of the Championships are Bridgestone Firestone and Maxam Tire and further support has been given by Briarwood Products, Sharnford Tractors, Cheffins, Howkins & Harrison, Friends of Ferguson Heritage, Cotterill Drainage, Ivor King, Wessex Agri  and Mrs H Stacey.

The event will be very easy to find, it’s about 3 miles from the junction of the M42/A42, very close to Twycross Zoo.   There will be food outlets and a licensed bar and further information can be found on www.ploughmen.co.ukor from the Society of Ploughmen on  01302 852469, Facebook or Twitter.

Four  adies are ploughing this year:  in the horse ploughing classes Bryony Gill from St Austell, Cornwall ploughing with her Shires, Bravelad and Angel;  in the David Brown Class, Janet Vickers from Sarn, Malpas, Cheshire (who’s husband, Nigel, and son, Stuart, are both taking part);18 year old Ellie Bullard from Royston, Hertfordshire in the world style conventional class (who’s 15 year old brother, Josh, is also ploughing) and 15 year old Sorrel Lewington from Somerton, Somerset in the vintage hydraulic championship.

Results and Presentation of Trophies will be announced on the field at the end of each day (approximately 5 pm)

Admission to the event is £10 for adults, £5 for children 11 years and older, free for children under 11.

On the evening prior to the event, a ‘Service of Dedication and Blessing of the Plough’ will be held at Norton-Juxta-Twycross Parish Church at 7.30 pm on Friday 12th.

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