Ploughing a straight furrow

On a cool Sunday morning in early November, I head out to the local vintage tractor and engine club’s annual ploughing match.

Each year this event draws tractor enthusiasts, old and new, from miles away. It’s a very sociable occasion; a contest with the highest calibre in ploughing skill and a number of county champions competing for another piece of silverware and a new title too.

This year is special. The Maldon District Vintage Tractor and Engine Club is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Yet this event (as with others up and down the country) has already been postponed twice. While competitions in neighbouring counties have been cancelled because the ground has been too wet, Essex by contrast, has experienced a very dry autumn with the ground being too hard to turn. Time has been running out for the club to find a suitable date and more importantly, a field that heralds perfect ploughing conditions and hasn’t already been set to crop.

The ploughs and tractors here today are from yesteryear – Fergie grey, Fordson green and blue, Massey Ferguson and McCormick red, Nuffield orange. A spectrum of vibrant, vintage colour that brings the field to life for a brief moment in time and warms against the sudden chill of the Scandinavian air blanketing the region.

There are thirteen entrants in all and it’s a serious competition, especially now the final furrows are being drawn and the tape measures are coming out. The two judges finalise their score sheets, awarding points for both straightness and neatness.

The ploughing match is supported by the local New Holland tractor dealer, Ernest Doe & Sons Ltd who serve complimentary hot drinks and bacon rolls. They’ve brought along a modern T7.225 tractor which towers over the older versions, and has much more horse power and an imposing field-presence by comparison. They’ve also sponsored the event and provided winners’ trophies too.

Sitting in the exhibition unit with the club’s president and my warming cup of coffee, we add up the points together and complete the winner’s certificates. Prizes are awarded for Open Mounted Ploughing; Open Trailed Ploughing; Maldon Club Class Ploughing and Champion Ploughman of the Day. There’s a jovial camaraderie as the winners are announced and the trophies are distributed.

It’s been a lovely autumn morning to be outside and I leave the field with the strong smell of the earth. The sunlight that bounced off the fresh furrows earlier has now disappeared behind heavy cloud cover and a pair of wagtails land on the newly laid land.

MDVTEC welcome new members.

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