British Agricultural Shows and Vintage Rallies
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The other popular event is the ploughing match. Ploughing matches are held in most regions throughout spring and autumn. The larger events, like the Festival of the Plough and British Nationals, have many teams of horses present as well as various tractor classes. In the smaller events just a couple of horse teams might compete. The classes on offer are divided according to the type of tractor and plough, and to a lesser extent, according to the experience of the person ploughing. Ploughing matches, it has to be said, are not for the faint-hearted spectator. They are often held on a damp and windswept field, and apart from a van selling hot take-away food, tea and coffee, there is little other than ploughing to sustain the casual spectator!
Each area of the UK also has its agricultural shows. These are less about showing tractors and more about showing livestock, but like the vintage rally, they make for a great family day out. There will often be stands selling, or at least advertising, the latest agricultural machinery, and some shows do have a vintage display of some kind. For instance, at the 2006 Meirionnydd show, Ferguson tractors were arranged in a big “60” shape to mark the line’s 60th anniversary.
This spring I attended Caerwys Agricultural Show here in North Wales. This was a relatively small show, but I like small shows as there’s just enough to see in one day, and the entry prices aren’t too ridiculous either. Members of the Flintshire Vintage and Classic Tractor Club organized the vintage tractor section and there were about 80 tractors in attendance, which was a pretty good turnout for a small event. The club was also celebrating the Women’s Land Army and the contribution that these women made to agriculture and the war effort.
The Women’s Land Army, incidentally, was a British civilian organization set up by the Board of Agriculture during both the first and second World Wars. Like similar efforts in the U.S., it created an avenue for women to work in agriculture, thus replacing the men who had been called into military service. (Editor’s note: For more on the Women’s Land Army in the U.S., see the October 2010 issue of Farm Collector, pages 12-14.) Commonly known as “land girls,” these women never received much formal recognition for their hard work, but two years ago, then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown rectified that by awarding the surviving women a medal in order to commemorate their work
Younger members of the public might not know anything about the “land girls,” so displays like this educate as well as provide a touch of nostalgia for older members of the community.