Monday, 21 October 2019

Making hay while sun shines

Making hay while sun shines

THIS year’s Henley and District Agricultural Association ploughing match was the most successful in at least a decade, say the organisers.

Hundreds of people attended the 128th annual event, which for the first time this year took place on a field off Church Lane, Ipsden, belonging to farmer and landowner Vaughan Williams.

Takings on the gate were higher than in previous years, when the match took place at Bishopsland in Dunsden on the Phillimore estate.

The day began with the traditional blessing of the plough by Rev Stephen Cousins, associate priest for Ewelme benefice, before more than 50 ploughmen and women put their skills to the test across seven classes.

They ploughed the field in rows while driving both modern and vintage tractors and there were also three entrants using ploughs pulled by Shire horses, which they guided by shouting commands and pulling on a rope.

Entrants were awarded points for the level, depth, straightness and uniformity of their furrows. The full criteria were published in the match programme so spectators could make their own judgements. A new attraction this year was JamLudi and MPevu, a pair of working oxen from Waltham Place Farm at White Waltham. They gave demonstrations of cart towing and stopped for visitors to take photographs of them.

There was also a fun dog show with prizes in five classes, open, lurcher, gun dog, terrier and cutest puppy, and a poultry auction featuring pedigree chickens, ducks and other fowl.

Children could ride in traditional swing boats or a tea cup roundabout and there were food stalls selling pies, hog roast, ice creams, baked goods and burgers. Hay bales were set up for families to rest and enjoy their purchases.

There was also an exhibition of classic steam and stationary engines, fairground games including a shooting gallery, tractor and trailer rides around the site, a weaving display and an information stall run by the Henley Young Farmers’ Club.

Jenny Spooner, the association’s agricultural chairwoman, said: “It was a great day. The sun came out at just the right time for us after heavy overnight rain, which was worrying because it was muddy underfoot and some heavy vehicles had to be towed on to the site.

“However, the sun soon dried off the surface, leaving perfect conditions for ploughing and we didn’t have to tow any cars off at the end. We’re very lucky that it’s such a free-draining field otherwise it could have been difficult.

“The new venue provided a beautiful setting and attracted people from further away so it was a good chance for people to find out more about these traditional pursuits.

“We managed to reach more young people and families by publicising it on social media, which is important as we need to reach a new generation and inspire their interest.”

Next year’s match will take place on a new site which remains to be confirmed.

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