A RECORD number of competitors took part in this year’s ploughing match organised by the Henley and District Agricultural Association.
About 2,000 spectators were at Bishopsland in Dunsden on Sunday to watch the 58 ploughmen and women compete.
The day began with the traditional blessing of the plough ceremony performed by the Rev Stephen Cousins, chaplain of Shiplake College.
The competitors, who found the contest difficult with the sticky soil conditions, were awarded points for the level, depth, uniformity and straightness of their furrows.
Mark Pottinger, 52, from Wargrave, won the open class for conventional ploughs using his Ford New Holland tractor.
He said: “There’s a very good, competitive spirit between the farmers as well as camaraderie.”
There was an example of how farmers used to cultivate their fields with three pairs of heavy horses ploughing.
Judge David Ashford, 79, said: “With horses, you look to plough an acre a day but with tractors you can plough about 40 acres in a day so not a lot of general farms still use horses.
“I’ve been interested in ploughing for years and competitions like this attract a lot of people.
“It is something you don’t see every day whereas years ago you would look in a field and there they were ploughing with horses.”
Other attractions included ferret racing, trailer rides, a poultry auction, a log-chopping competition and a demonstration of vintage machinery given by members of the association.
Guy Champion, 28, from Dunsden, said: “The purpose is to show people how things used to be done. We used a steam engine and chaff cutter to show how they used to get the corn out of their crop, whereas now it’s done by a combine harvester.
“The engine in our steam engine is one of only three of its kind left in the world and is worth a lot of money.” Association chairman Simon Beddows, who farms at Dunsden Green, said that despite this year’s harvest being one of the worst in 70 years, farmers in the Henley area had escaped some of the extreme conditions experienced elsewhere. He added: “Farmers are a stoic bunch of people and turning over the soil is the beginning of a new crop and a chance to start again.”
Next year’s ploughing match will be held on October 6 and will include a lurcher show. There was no lurcher show this year, as the Standard reported incorrectly last week.