Ploughing Match on Llyn Peninsula

Ploughing matches are hardcore spring time events in Wales

| September 2011

When I say I have a fascination for all things vintage, I think you can include fine red wines in that category, too. After a productive day there really is nothing better than sitting down and enjoying the smooth, rich taste of a nice bottle of Bordeaux. The best place to have this moment of indulgence is out at the back of our house, beside the babbling brook, whilst the evening sun slips down behind the hills, leaving just the silhouettes of the birch trees and the sounds of wood pigeons in the distance ... 

Anyway, one moment it was like that, and then I am waking up with a thumping headache, recalling with horror that I’ve agreed to go to a ploughing match at the crack of dawn with my brother Bob. Even at this unearthly hour the sun is piercing, and luckily I have the foresight to grab a pair of sunglasses before slipping quietly out of the door, trying to leave without waking the sleeping children and their dad. Because I live up a very steep and winding lane, and because my brother will be hauling a trailer, we have arranged to meet at a convenient crossroads, further down my lane.

As I lean against a wall waiting for my brother to turn up, I ask myself if I’m doing the right thing by spending my precious Saturday at a ploughing match. You see, ploughing matches are strictly hardcore: It’s all about ploughing and that’s pretty much it. This is great if the event happens to take place on a nice warm day, but since the ploughing season takes place in the spring and autumn, the sun is by no means guaranteed.

We’re headed to the most western point of the Llyn Peninsula, at the end of a little strip of land in North Wales that points out across the Irish Sea. Aberdaron, the little village where the match is to be held, is closer to Ireland than it is to England, and on a clear day you can see the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland in the distance, some 40 to 50 miles away across the Irish Sea. The Llyn Peninsula is a beautiful area, with rolling fields, sandy beaches and wild craggy cliffs. But on the wrong day it can be a cold and desolate spot, as there is very little shelter from sea winds in this the very tip of northwest Wales.

Ploughing with a crawler

Early last winter Bob bought a Bristol crawler. Like most of us do when we buy something we don’t need, he tried to convince himself that it would be “a useful machine,” but deep down he knew, and we knew, that it was really a big boy’s toy. Having said that, he has done some work grading tracks with it, so it has earned him a bit of money. Last winter we had a lot of snow, and Bob enjoyed a spot of snow ploughing with the crawler, but when the real ploughing season started, he removed the blade to see how the crawler would work in a ploughing match.

This particular crawler – a Bristol PD Angledozer – is a bulldozer with no hydraulics on the rear to attach a plough to. Therefore the only sort of plough that Bob can use is a trailer plough, which means that for ploughing match purposes Bob is in the “Pre-1966 Vintage Trailer Plough Class.” In this class both the plough and the tractor must pre-date 1966, which is fine as the crawler dates to 1962-’63.