Ploughmen Set for World Ploughing Contest in England

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Jim Elliott, winner of the horse ploughing championship, with equine team Harry and Prince.
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The ploughing competition was held in October 1999 at Shilingford, Oxfordshire.
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An International W4 pulling a Ransome Motrac trailer plough.

The 47th annual World Ploughing contest will be held in England, Sept. 16-17. Representing the United States will be Conrad Gruber and Marvin Goplen, both of Minnesota.

The contest is part of World Ploughing 2000, a four-day event that will also include the 50th annual British National Ploughing championships. It will take place at the Lincolnshire Showgrounds, Lincoln, approximately 150 miles north of the capital city of London.

“We are delighted to be bringing the World Ploughing Contest to Lincolnshire after an absence of 16 years,” said Ken Chappell, director of the Society of Ploughmen, joint organizers of World Ploughing 2000, “especially as this year is also the Golden Jubilee of the British National Ploughing championships. We’ve put together a program that will appeal to everyone interested in farming and rural life. You don’t have to be a farmer or ploughing enthusiast to enjoy it.”

The British National Ploughing championships will take place on Sept. 14-15.

“This brings together more than 300 of the country’s best ploughmen and women, who will battle it out for the honor to represent England at the World Ploughing Contest in 2001,” said Susan Frith, press officer for the Society of Ploughmen. “That contest will be held in Denmark.”

The British contest features 11 ploughing classes including horse ploughing, vintage tractors, horticultural equipment, and conventional and reversible modern tractor ploughing. Every year more than 10,000 ploughmen compete in local matches to qualify for a place in the national championships.

“The horse ploughing is a pageant of farming history,” Susan said. “… Graceful working horses resplendent in nodding plumes and glittering brasses. The vintage section includes tractors and tackle that have shaped British farming over the past 100 years. The horticultural section features specialist tractors and equipment for market gardeners and smallholders.”

Conventional ploughing is still the traditional method used on many farms, but nowadays the reversible is the commercial plough of choice. Reversible ploughing provides a more uniform, level seed bed than the conventional method, with fewer furrows to damage farming equipment.

This year’s World Ploughing Contest has attracted 60 contestants from 30 nations. Each two-man team includes the current National Ploughing champion from each country.

The ploughing competitions and machinery demonstrations will be spread across more than 527 acres covering seven farms. The adjacent show ground provides 226 acres of exhibition space and parking.

Last year’s World Ploughing contest was held in conjunction with the French National Ploughing championships near Reims in northern France. Overall titles went to Christoph Hess of Switerzland, who won the Reversible championship, and Martin Kehoe of the Republic of Ireland, winner of the Conventional championship. This was Kehoe’s third victory in the world contest. He won the Conventional championship in New Zealand in 1994 and in Kenya in 1995.

The Society of Ploughmen Ltd. is a group formed in 1972 to enable the British National Ploughing championships to be held annually. It is a registered charity run by volunteers from the farming community.

“The Society is a vibrant, thriving organization,” said Susan Frith. “With more than 250 local ploughing societies affiliated to it and a membership drawn from all over the world, it is an influential member of the World Ploughing Organization. Membership is not restricted to ploughmen and women. Anyone can join and there are many members who joined purely out of a love of farming and the countryside.”

World Ploughing 2000 is not just about ploughing competitions. The event will begin on Sept. 13 with an evening service of dedication and blessing of the plough at Lincoln Cathedral. During the four days of competition the event will feature “A Century of Mechanized Agriculture,” a journey from the dawn of the last century through the age of horse-drawn machinery to the golden days of steam. Emphasis will be on working exhibits and demonstrations of harvesting and tillage machinery.

Also featured will be “The Great Millennium Steam Challenge,” 10 sets of steam ploughing tackle competing for the Challenge Cup. The Cup was originally presented in 1884 to Robert Fowler, whose family was at the forefront of the development of steam-powered land cultivation in the British Isles.

Two special horse-ploughing matches are planned for World Ploughing 2000. On Sept. 16, teams from nine Horse Ploughing Associations from all over England will compete. On Sept. 17 teams from across Europe will take part in the International Horse Ploughing Challenge match. There will also be displays in the show’s main ring given by the Suffolk, Percheron, Shire and Clydesdale breed societies.

“Throughout the four-day event there will be working demonstrations and static displays of the latest tractors and agricultural machinery,” said Susan Frith. “There will be exhibits featuring a range of agricultural services, displays and demonstrations of vintage tractors and equipment, and a large shopping area that includes rural arts and crafts exhibitions. For those who just simply love the countryside, its pursuits and its history, there are plenty of other attractions including gun dog and falcon training demonstrations, falconry flying displays, and a sheep and farmyard display.”

The Society of Ploughmen Limited lists its objectives as follows: the promotion of the art, skill and science of ploughing the land; the promotion of an annual British National Ploughing contest to be held annually in Great Britain; and cooperation with similar organizations in other countries to organize the World Ploughing Championship competitions. It also aims to provide facilities so that the winners of local ploughing matches can compete for the British and World championships, and by so doing, foster and maintain a high standard of ploughmanship.

The group believes that good ploughing still lies at the heart of proper soil management and that ploughing not only Improves soil structure by helping drainage and aerating the soil, but also helps to preserve the land for future generations of farmers. FC

For more information: Online at Email: or write to The Society of Ploughmen Limited, Quarry Farm, Loversall, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, UK. DN11 9DH

Jill Teunis is a freelance writer living in Damascus, MD. She is interested in writing about communities, their people and history.

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