Martin Read – News Reporter
Last Saturday the annual West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society match and show – this year at Westons Farm, Itchingfield – attracted a huge crowd of contented visitors clearly enjoying a day in the countryside, along with competitors from across the county and far beyond. Large fields at the substantial farm were ploughed by various means, but there was far more to the day than ploughing alone, the event again resembling the South of England Show. In the main ring there were cattle, a selection of dairy and beef animals and calves from the local Brinsbury Campus. A wide variety of sheep were also on display, accompanied by a shearing demonstration. There were pigs, too and nearby, entertaining ferrets raced through tubes in aid of Cancer Research, a 50p stake enabling winning investors to double their outlay. There was terrier racing, and a gun dog scurry over straw bales to retrieve an object on the firing of a starting pistol. Hounds paraded, hedge layers and welders competed, while an energetic tug of war enthused – all surrounded by fair ground activities, food stalls, stick making and an enormous collection of traditional and state of the art agricultural machinery of all shapes and sizes. Steyning Young Farmers Club ran a skittle alley and beautiful country prints, leather goods and vintage wooden handled tools were on offer, not far from a number of vintage stationary machines, some over 100 years old, but still working as pumps and flour grinders. The East Clayton Farm donkeys charmed everyone, the Washington based charity seeking volunteers to continue their work with visiting groups and residents who are either disadvantaged or disabled. Lunches and local beers were popular in the barn while the Christs Hospital School Band went through their entertaining repertoire alongside the meet the farmer education area. Nearby, vegetables, fruit, cake, jam and plants – including spectacular orchids – were judged, and a produce stall raised money for Chestnut Tree Hospice. Clay pigeon shooting and bale stacking were among other popular activities and tractor and trailer rides busily ferried families around the farm, where the expertly scrutinised ploughing was taking place across the expansive fields. The ploughing featured iconic little grey Fergie tractors and Fordsons, dating from the 1940s, on to giant modern machines. There were tractors with caterpillar tracks and spiked metal wheels and beautifully decorated working shire horses, including Madge and Dolly competing against Roger and Major. An enormous chain and belt driven threshing and binding machine sorted the wheat from the chaff, and a hooting traction engine worked in tandem with a gigantic steam ploughing machine, the pair combining to pull a contraption with a man steering aloft and two colleagues acting as ballast below, as it worked up and down the field. The draw for raffle prizes and presentation of some of the magnificent array of cups took place in the afternoon. The remaining silverware will be awarded at the Society’s annual dinner at the Steyning Centre on Saturday October 7th. The show was established in 1871 and in his welcome message, this year’s West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society President, local MP Jeremy Quin, said: “The Ploughing Match is a great occasion for those taking part and a very happy occasion to exhibit what we value about Sussex farming, its community, history and its future. We are all deeply grateful to the huge amount of work that has been put in to make today special.” This was a long day for the organisers, Show Secretary Rowan Allan, in charge for his 19th show, telling the District Post: “We arrived at 7.30 to greet farmers coming in with their machinery. There’s always such a nice atmosphere, and, proceeds from the show enable us to provide a bursary helping local agricultural workers to develop their farming careers”. Barry Peay and his wife Sarah were among the many volunteer stewards again, Barry, taking time off from the presidency of Horsham Cricket Club, quipped: “It was lively here first thing when some lambs broke free and were chased by sheepdogs, adding to the fun!” The show is held different farms each year, providing fresh challenges and views – next year it will be at Priors Byne Farm, Partridge Green on September 15.