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Southwell Ploughing Match

 September 2004 

Southwell ploughing match and country fair

Rosemary Martin recalls an idyllic event in rural Nottinghamshire

A warm, mellow autumn day last year was on offer for this late September annual event, held near our home in rural Nottinghamshire. Having nothing pressing to do, we decided to visit the show, which according to friends, just gets better each year..

A couple of fields, part of a country estate, were made over for car parking and the first event we came across was the ploughing match, where several restored classic ploughs strive for the coveted winner`s title, for achieving the straightest and most even furrow of the day.

We saw the steam traction engines similar to the one restored in the television programme `Salvage Squad`. These engines were manufactured in pairs, a left and right handed engine standing at opposite ends of the field, hauling the ploughing implement alternately between the two engines by means of a heavy duty steel cable, as in the picture here:

There was the customary dog show, in which our two year old black labrador, not being the most obedient of dogs unless there is food in it for him, was NOT entered. He did, however, spend considerable time making the acquaintance of some of the very pretty girl dogs who were preening themselves for the judges.

We strolled into the largest of the marquees, housing the craft stalls and competitions, where we spent a happy hour or so just enjoying the entries. Yes, we were tempted to buy this and that, but on consideration voted against anything that might involve more dusting.

We saw the flower show entries and some wonderful flower arrangements, that reminded me how cack-handed I am. And the fruit and vegetables with the biggest of pumpkins and onions made my efforts look puny (though they probably taste better). The cake competition took up four stalls, for there were entries from dads as well as mums. There were paintings and several competitions that children had entered, making many delightful and innovative objects. I couldn`t help but wonder at the effort people had gone to, just to be a small part of this impressive annual event.

There were huge combine harvesters to admire, and we realised what giants these awesome machines are and very hi-tech these days too. Most farmers hire in contracters who own these huge harvesters, to do the work. Not many could afford the 120k or so necessary to buy one.

At the equestrian display, we were greeted by horse lovers in tweeds and plus fours who turned out to be friends and acquaintances. We didn’t recognise them at first, knowing them rather better in green wellies, flat cap and scent of `eau de cow pat`.

A final stroll round the stalls, and I did succomb, buying a limited edition print of a farm scene for much less than half the price the chap a few stalls further down was charging.

It was a wonderful afternoon, seeing the very best of human nature, helped of course by the beautiful weather. I wonder how much the fact that I am now in my later years helped me appreciate this very British event? If there is one in your neck of the woods, don’t miss it.



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