Peter Love visited three September ploughing matches to see how these special events bring the farming community closer together.   

74th East Grinstead and Three Counties Annual Ploughing Match

It was a fine autumnal morning at Imberhorne Farm, West Grinstead, Surrey as I pulled into the car park to be warmly greeted by two young marshals who gave me an excellent programme for the day ahead.

Already it was 9am and the 57 competitors were lining up to start as they cleared their plots of straw. As expected, the conditions were to be tough, but the firm ground was ploughable, although hard work for the little grey Ferguson class (Class 8). 

This is the cheapest way to get into match ploughing using a Ferguson two-furrow plough which will cost you approximately £260 in good order and on average £2,000 for an altogether Ferguson TE-A/TE-D and a good diesel (TE-F), possibly a little more. Everyone in this class is helpful and the Friends of Ferguson Heritage or The Ferguson Club will keep you in touch with what is going on, as will the Society of Ploughmen, the leading ploughing organisation in the UK.    

Harry Ferguson’s TE-20 creation hit the streets, so to speak, in September 1946, but only 316 were completed by the end of the year owing to a major material shortage in the UK. The first of these tractors had the two litre American Continental Z-120 23bhp four-cylinder ohv engine fitted with a four-speed transmission and load sensing hydraulics and was called the TE-20 (Tractor England). By September 1947 the Standard Motor Company’s own four-cylinder ohv 25bhp unit was running, but it was not until 26 January 1948 that it started to replace the Continental engine which was finally phased out later that year. 

In fact the Standard petrol-engined version was called the TE-A. Later came the TE-D petrol/paraffin and then in 1951 the TE-F diesel version, all of which are seen in the Ferguson ploughing class along with a number of Perkins P3 engine conversions mostly made from TE and TE-A tractors whose engines needed replacing. The diesel engine provided the owner with much better fuel economy, of course. 

There were, however, literally hundreds of different types of grey Ferguson tractors from industrial (TE-P/R/S) to the famous narrow (TE-C/E/G/J) and vineyard (TE-K/L/M/N), made firstly by Reekie in Scotland and then Lenfields of Maidstone. They were all based on the Harry Ferguson basic design and factory approved. Harry left nothing to waste and the linkage spanner acted as the fuel dip stick. 

Ferguson didn’t just provide tractors but supplied the farmer with the full ‘Ferguson System’, making thousands of implements and just about everything, even generating sets to provide electricity for your milk parlour and home lighting. 

During 1947, Ferguson made 17,522 ploughs, of which 20% went overseas. Interestingly, the mould boards were an American Oliver Corporation design. The founder of this company had his roots in Scotland before seeking his fortune in the USA. The big Oliver dealer in the UK from the 1930s to 1950s was John Wallace & Sons of Glasgow. Readers might have seen one of their potato diggers in the back of some dusty barn as they were sold all over southern England. 

By the time the last grey Ferguson left the line in October 1956, just under half a million of these venerable beasts had been made and many are still going strong today. 

As I mentioned earlier, these tractors and ploughs are very much the way into vintage ploughing for men and women today, and the winner of the sponsored Kenward Construction Ltd Ferguson class was T Patterson and his TE-F with GP (general purpose plough). Second was W Cottingham with his TE-20 and GP plough and third was Phil Curd and his well-known Ferguson TE-20 Perkins P3 conversion with Ferguson 10H on the back end.

In Class 7 Vintage Mounted, the winner was Gordon Newman from Basingstoke with his 1959 Fordson Dexta and Ransomes TS59, which he has owned since new. Second place was P Pierson with his fine 1958 Massey Ferguson 35 and Ransomes TS59 behind and third was taken by the third generation of the Tingley family to take up ploughing, S G Tingley with his fine Bradford-built (ex Jowett car works) International B414 with a TS59. 

Class 6 Vintage Trailed was to produce the overall winner of the day in Bedfordshire’s Mick Cherry, a capable engineer who has improved and improved over the 20 plus years he has pursued the hobby. He uses a 1938 Harvest Gold Fordson N and Ransomes RSLD 9 two-furrow behind, with some interesting cast rear wheels on the tractor. He was chased hard by East Sussex local Simon Tingley with his lovely Waterloo, Iowa-built but genuine UK imported 1942 unstyled John Deere AO (O for orchard) and Ransomes RSLD No 9 plough. Third on the day was D Green with his wide-wing 1941 Fordson Standard N and RSLD 9. 

Class 6 Best Maintained Pre-1976 tractor went to J Grantham with his 1960 County E1A Ploughman six-cylinder conversion. Well known New Holland/JCB area salesman Quentin Waring was seen going backwards in the furrow with his gorgeous 1966 Pre Force Ford 5000 with four-furrow Ransomes behind. 

John Deere tractors were to sew up Class 3, with G Long first with his 2015 6125R with Dowdswell DP8 behind. Grahame Butler was second with his original 1976 1130 with Ransomes behind. This tractor had worked in south Wales before coming to East Sussex with Ed Burrows’ help. The former East Sussex plough champion Matt Butler sorted the tractor out. Matt was to finish third on the day with his original 1970 1120 with Ransomes TS82. 

Class 10 was the biggest, with ten ploughmen competing for the Classic Ploughing award sponsored by Chris Leggat Plant. The winner here was S Hill with his 1965 David Brown 880 with David Brown C plough behind. Second went to Ian Linch, who went on to finish in the same position after taking part at the Brooklands, New Romney match the next day. His outfit is always immaculate, with his 1963 Massey Ferguson 35X shining brightly, along with his TS59 plough. Third went to C Fenner and his 1960 International B275 and Ransomes TS57 plough. 

All in all, an excellent match which was enjoyed by many. 

Champion Ploughman was M Cherry and Reserve Champion Ploughman was W Tupper.

A wonderful day in the Weald

Brilliant weather greeted the annual Weald of Kent Ploughing Match and Show at New Barn Farm, Hawkenbury, near Headcorn, courtesy of John Emery and Mr and Mrs Graham Williams.

This is by far the most popular match in the South East season, with visitors still arriving even after the ploughing had long since finished. Sadly missed was regular Ralph Stevens from Horsmonden and his Caterpillar D2 outfit following his recent retirement.    

In the Conventional Mounted class there were three competitors, including P Baseby’s Super Dexta with Ransomes 103 plough looking good. Next door was D Linch and his finely presented Kubota L275 using a Ferguson two-furrow behind.

 Class 2 – Classic Mounted featured some 11 competitors. This class is by far the most hotly contested at any ploughing match these days and it was the same here. 

Looking very smart was the outfit of former British Crawler Champion Colin Fenner from Essex, who was going well with his Bradford-built International B275 and Ransomes TS59 plough. ‘Mr Reliable’ Ian Linch was hoping to go one better than his earlier second places this autumn with his immaculate Massey Ferguson 35X with his TS59 on the back.  Bob Baseby was a winner in the spring and is a formidable competitor and was doing good work using a Fordson Super Major and Ransomes plough.

Class Vintage A – Open featured the top vintage trailed ploughers such as New Romney match winner Austin West, who put top ploughman Paul Wyle from Essex in his place there. The man to watch here was John Dungey, a local professional ploughman for so many, many decades. All three were Fordson Standard N-based with Ransomes ploughs behind. 

It was so pleasing to see Class Vintage B – Vintage Local Trailed Ploughs dominated by the Fordson Standard N, the largest selling tractor of its time.  M Watson’s 1940 example looked an original treat with his Ransomes plough, like all of the nine entrants in this class. It was great to see Emily Watson out there with her well-presented restored Standard outfit going well. 

For me it was great to hear the ‘plonking’ sound of the two 40hp single-cylinder Fowler VF crawler tractors, a type Tetts of Faversham would have sold in years gone by. The two examples entered by G Maynard and C Gadsden were using four and three-furrow Ransomes ploughs respectively. 

Class Vintage D for Vintage Open Mounted Ploughs featured a great variety. J Wilson’s early Nuffield Universal with two-furrow Ransomes looked such an original treat, as was Chris Cullen’s similar condition Nuffield Universal-Three, the big Weald of Kent match winner last year.  

It was good to see a trio of machines taking part in the horticultural Class 7 – Single-Furrow. It included Andy Ford, the current British Champion, taking part this weekend with his Trusty outfit. 

Modern reversible ploughing is not very fashionable, but some 16 outfits took part here using Kevernland, Dowdeswell and Lemkin ploughs, with John Deere the most popular tractor. The biggest was the USA-made JD 8330 with Kverneland six-furrow behind, while the most impressive was F Martin with his immaculate Massey Ferguson 4709 with three-furrow Lemken behind.

In the Reversible Novice Class it was good to see A Seymour with his classic Fendt 309 65A with four-furrow Lemken behind. Next door was T Eckley with his Basildon built New Holland TM150 and four-furrow Dowdeswell. If you wanted speed of work, M Sheath would have won with his Case 1056 four-wheel drive with four-furrow Dowdeswell.

Trailer rides were being given, with the marshal talking about ploughing and encouraging people to take part. Up front was a Claas 650 Arion made at Le Mans, France, not in the normal Claas green but in black.   

Steam ploughing has always been part of this show and this year was very special one, with Paul Ransley’s 1873 Fowler 12hp single-cylinder green ploughing engine making its public debut in steam.

 Top engineer Paul is based at Hadlow and has been working on this amazing project for 30-plus years. He started with hardly any bits, finding some for the engine in Australia. The engine worked with one of the Pierce/Stanier 8hp single-cylinder Fowlers dating from 1876/7 with the four-furrow Fowler anti-balance plough, all brought to the show by Peter Denham behind his fabulous USA built Freightliner.  

Not far away was the heart of the show with people packed around the many trade stands. All the major machinery dealers were here, with Agwood, which has a number of branches in the area, showing a Massey Ferguson 5S.115. 

On the Lister Wilder stand was the Kubota L1-382, along with a Merlo loader. Haynes had a good selection of New Holland and JCB equipment on show, while Tuckwells entertained their many customers on their John Deere stand. 

Ernest Doe’s Case-IH stand saw lots of young people climbing on the seat of the open centre maroon Case-IH 55A. M&A Brown & Sons was showing a full range of Branson tractors, with the 5025 model standing out in particular. 

Overall Conventional Champion was  I Linch and Overall Reversible Champion was T Bennett. 

Romney Marsh Ploughing & Cultivations Society

The ground conditions at White House Farm, Brookland, Kent were drier than the previous day at East Grinstead as the tractors lined up in good sunny conditions for the 10am start. 

A larger crowd than the day before descended on the very flat site at this well-organised annual match. Sadly, there was just one entrant in the Modern Reversible class. While nearly 60 ploughman were here, only a few had made it down from the East Grinstead match the day before. 

The man to watch was ex-Doe second-hand combine expert Paul Wylie. The multiple Essex ploughing champion and regular trailed National finalist has been going well this season. He found himself up against it, though, when local Austin West took him on and won in the now running sweetly (new plugs last year) Fordson Standard N wide wing and Ransomes RSLD, which, like the tractor, had been properly restored. The family has been rallying tractors since 1976 at the May Sellindge Rally with the International 10/20 which they still own today.

Austin’s brother Oliver, who also is a top local ploughman, was out of luck and picked a very poor plot with his superb running and so original 1936 J I Case C, but by the end of the day in typical style he pulled it all together to finish third.

It was good to see a Novice class (Class 6) which included Emily Watson with her Fordson Standard N and trailed Ransomes that was to finish third. Leelan Watson finished second, while winner Ed Lovejoy and his immaculate mounted International 276 and IH plough was in a different class. 

Ben Marsh from Faversham took the Classic Class 2 with his MF 135 and Ransomes TS84 and was to be named ‘Plough Champion’ at the end of the day. Ian Linch was second and third was B Baseley with his famous Fordson Super Major/Ransomes TS59 combination from Sevenoaks. 

The Class 3 Vintage Mounted was taken by Ian Hogbin with his Ferguson TE-20 and Ransomes Robin. Second, and having a rough ride of it, was Dan Smith with his grey and gold Ferguson FE35, also using a Ransomes Robin, and third was Richard Head from Hailsham using his International B250 with David Brown plough behind. 

Class 4, the Ferguson class, had 11 entrants, with N King from Tonbridge taking the honours, Mick Jones finishing second using a French built FF30DS and J Paine third with this TE-F diesel. Competitors came from Swindon, Wimborne and Chichester to compete in this popular class.

Yet again it was a successful event with lots of trade stands including Agwood, Bell Agricultural, Beshaw Tyres, R W Crawford, Ernest Doe, Haynes, Hobbs Parker, Lister Wilder, Tuckwells, Seddlescombe Vintage Tractor Spares and others. The dog show and other events kept the crowds here to the end. 

Overall Champion was won by Ben Marsh and Reserve Champion went to Paul Wylie