Friday, 24 September 2021

Ploughing champ at 15

A TEENAGER from Checkendon took home two trophies after winning a ploughing match.

A TEENAGER from Checkendon took home two trophies after winning a ploughing match.

Ben Bexx, 15, was one of almost 50 ploughmen and women who entered the competition on Saturday.

He was awarded one trophy for winning his round and another for being best overall ploughman in the 13 to 20 age group.

Ben, of Emmens Close, used his vintage Ferguson TEF 20, which he has owned since he was three.

The diesel-powered vehicle is about 60 years old and was attached to a two-furrow plough.

Ben was judged on the straightness and distance between his furrows and the neatness of his start and finish.

He first entered a ploughing match last year but Saturday’s event, at Bothampstead Farm in Hampstead Norreys, was his first victory.

The event was organised by the Newbury and District Agricultural Society as part of the annual Royal County of Berkshire Show.

His mother Jenny said: “When he came back home, I asked him how he had done and he just said, ‘oh, I’ve done all right’. Then he walked in with the two cups — his face was a picture. He’s taken them everywhere to show to people. He was so pleased.”

Ben, whose father Simon runs Thamesview Tyres in Newtown Road, Henley, was given his tractor by his grandfather Stan Wilcox.

He loved Fergusons from an early age as Mr Wilcox, also from Checkendon, mows the village recreation ground with one. As a toddler, he would sit beside his grandfather while he did the mowing. Ben first drove his tractor at the age of 10, when he would practise ploughing on neighbouring farmers’ fields.

About three years ago, 72-year-old Mr Wilcox bought him a second machine, a Massey Ferguson 35 worth £7,000, as a Christmas present.

Mr Wilcox owns two additional Ferguson TEF 20s, which he will also hand down to his grandson.

For the past few years, Ben has taken over the job of mowing the recreation ground.

During the summer and autumn he spends more than two hours on it twice a week after finishing his studies at Langtree School in Woodcote.

He tows a gang mower over the football pitch and around the outfield of the cricket square. His grandfather or parents tow the tractor to the site and Checkendon Parish Council, which owns the land, pays his expenses.

Ben also carries out tasks for landowners in the village, helping them pull down trees and gather firewood. He hopes to get his tractor licence when he turns 16 and start work straight away as an agricultural landscaper.

Mr Wilcox is a JCB driver for W J Hatt, of Goring Heath, and Ben hopes to take over his position.

He is waiting to hear whether the company will offer him an apprenticeship.

Ben also hopes to compete in the Henley and District Agricultural Association’s annual ploughing match. He is currently not eligible to enter as the minimum age is 17. Mrs Bexx said: “He has always shown a very strong interest in tractors. He is always going on about them and he and his granddad are always on the lookout for new ones.

“We support him as much as we can — if he needs to take them anywhere we will help. He is a very lucky boy.

“He doesn’t want to go to college — he just wants to go out there, get his licence and start work. He never sits still.”

His family regularly exhibit at local shows including the Woodcote Rally and the Stoke Row Steam Rally.

However, when Ben competes in ploughing matches, he prefers to travel without his parents.

Mrs Bexx said: “We tend to stay away when he competes because he feels more at ease when it’s just him and his grandfather. He taught him everything he knows.

“We would love to watch him but he can concentrate better when it’s only the two of them. They’re like two peas in a pod.”

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