WWOOF at the ploughing

Nov 26, 2016

Kevin Gaffney, RHC for Scotland Central, recently attended a major ploughing championship and shares his impressions.

An early start for my journey to Scotland’s East Coast, where I will attend the prestigious ploughing championships that are being held during this, thankfully, dry week in late October. My base is the charming coastal town of North Berwick – with its vibrant community cafes, delis and shops and views of the Bass Rock and the Isle of May.

The 33rd European Reversible Championships attracts top class ploughers from Denmark, Estonia, Russia, Switzerland and many more countries. This is the first time that Scotland has hosted the European, and it will be followed by the 54th Scottish Ploughing Championships, at West Fenton Farm.

Here, over 150 ploughers compete in different classes for Vintage, Modern and Horse ploughing and the champions in each section will go on to represent Scotland at the European, World, Five and Six Nations competitions around the globe in 2017. Judges in each class score the plots, where the highest placed ploughers will go through to a plough off. The plough has been a basic farm implement for most of recorded history, though I was recently surprised to learn that written references in English do not appear until 1100.

The art of ploughing is still seen as highly important and traditional. My great grandfather, like so many farmers in the early 1900s, cultivated his land on the Baltic Coast with heavy horses. I gather it would take you a day to plough one acre, with horse and plougher walking around eleven miles in total!

Basically, a plough is used for initial cultivation of the soil, in preparation for planting to loosen or turn the soil, and for sowing seeds. The purpose of ploughing is to turn over the upper layer of soil, bringing fresh nutrients to the surface, while burying weeds and the remains of previous crops, thus allowing them to break down. As the plough is drawn through the earth, it creates long trenches of fertile soil, which are known as furrows.

For the Reversible Championship, the plough has to have two mouldboard ploughs mounted back to back; one turning to the left, and the other to the right. While one is working the land, the other is carried upside down, in the air.

At the end of each row, the paired ploughs are turned over, so that they can be used. This returns along the next furrow, again working the field in a consistent direction.

At the competitions the ploughing plots are drawn fairly and each competitor will have signage displayed, allowing spectators to learn more about who is ploughing. I see that the heavy horses are down in plots from 166 on so I make my way there.

What a sight to behold! Graceful, calm, strong – they are inspiring and I spend a number of hours quietly watching; in awe of the teamwork between man, horse and plough as they steadily cultivate the soil. The scene goes back to the roots of heritage farming, which I think we need to sometimes see while we battle our own modern, rushed lives…..

Light bulb moments

Light bulb moments

By Nic Renison Cannerheugh Farm sits on the edge of the Pennines, half an hour from Penrith. We look over to the Lake District and on clear sunny days there is no better place to be. It has been our home since 2012 when we moved into a caravan in the yard, with our...

In the soils of Saltash

In the soils of Saltash

By Suze Creedon The year is 2022: I’ve just finished my year working as an au pair in Paris, France and now are backpacking around, with no plan in mind. Just a handful of experiences I wanted to have. The destinations came as I went along. Most of my travel I didn’t...

Wicton Farm – home of the Wild Cow Dairy

Wicton Farm – home of the Wild Cow Dairy

by Claire Wicton We are an organic dairy farm with 175 acres in the heart of Herefordshire. We have a herd of 50 Holstein Friesian cows and are passionate about creating positive change in the world.   Our vision is simple: We have a shared dream to create an...