Ploughing in a traditional – and very picturesque – way with horse teams and hand-ploughs was on display this weekend at the annual West Country Heavy Horse Society Ploughing Competition, this year at Gundenham Farm, Langford Budville.
The event attracted 14 teams of heavy horses and ploughmen, including the reigning British champion, Martin Kerswell from Buckfastleigh who won the national event in Basingstoke just two weeks ago. Martin has been ploughing with heavy horses for 14 years, starting when he was 12.
A further competition for ploughmen using ancient tractors was added to the event this year, attracting 20 entries.
Valerie Giles, a member of the West Country Heavy Horse Society since 1975 and formerly, Secretary for 19 years, explained the basic elements of the skills tested: “Ploughing competitors enter one of 4 classes – Oatseed Furrow, Cutwork, General Purpose Work and Novice. They’re judged according to a number of very strict criteria, not just the straightness of their furrows. Winners receive trophies and rosettes and prizes are also awarded for categories such as ‘Best Mare’, ‘Best Gelding’, ‘Best Turned-out Team’ and ‘Best Finish’.
Martin Kerswell took the Oatseed Furrow, Best Work, Best Crown and Finish and Best Working Team titles and was awarded the trophy for the Best Working Horse.
Other class winners were as follows:
Cutwork: Daniel Kerswell; General Purpose Work: Will Williams; Novice: John Mattingley; Best Turned Out: Randy Hiscock; Best Junior Ploughman: Joe Musty; Best Lady Ploughwoman: Heather Kibble; Best Mare: Jack Eddy; Best Gelding: Bryony Gill; Oldest Ploughman: Will Williams (81).
The Mary and Jessie Banks Memorial Cup was won by Daniel Kerswell
Valerie Giles said, “Our host was very impressed with the turnout and standard of ploughing. He said he would willingly find us a site again and had enjoyed having the Society at Gundenham.
“All the plough persons agreed that the site was the best ground they had ploughed on. It was good to see such a lovely crowd looking on.”
Formed in 1975 “to advance the interest of the heavy horse”, the Society was originally confined to the boundaries of Devon, Dorset and Somerset but now members come from areas far beyond these counties. Competitors this weekend travelled from as far away as Bristol and Middlesex. The society’s events are always held in the South West and include a ‘Working Day’ in August and the Ploughing Competition in October. The next ‘Working Day’ will be held at Kingsland Farm, Branscombe in August 2015 when the Society will be celebrating its 40th anniversary.