By Harriet Kent
Dawn breaks in mid-September. There is a hint of autumn in the fresh, crisp air. Spider webs cloak the grasses, delicately spun like beautiful white lace across the broad expanse of fields.
Luckily, the old girl springs into life with the first turn of the key. No ‘Easy Start’ required.
That’s reserved for the odd occasion when the tractor doesn’t want to play ball. The sighting poles are firmly attached to the plough with bungy ties and there is a tank full of diesel, so I’m ready for the journey.
No matter where I travel on the tractor to an event on the Island, it usually takes around 45 minutes. My tractor’s top speed is 14 mph (on a good day), and it still makes me smile whenever I am overtaken by a lycra-clad cyclist. The most memorable time was when I was travelling to a ploughing match, up Shorwell Shute. I must say that cyclist did fly past!
Upon reaching the venue, kindly offered by one of our Island farmers, I meet fellow ploughmen, some of whom are busy unloading their steeds from trailers (lucky them).
Upon collection of my number, I desperately search for my plot, praying that I’m not on the end of a line and need to plough a second opening! But I’m in luck – I’m sandwiched between two friends, both of whom are seasoned, trophy-winning professionals. I hope that I have ploughed my plot straight and that my fellow competitors don’t have to make too many adjustments as they marry up to my plot to ensure they don’t have to straighten up their plot too much.
Are you still with me?!
The opening split is made – consisting of ploughing the first and second furrow using only one shear and creating a grass-free opening. Then there is a wait until this has been judged and scored. I can but hope I get more than the usual score! A lot of ploughing is down to the soil, technique and above all, luck!
Then as the rocket indicates to start ploughing your plot, all tractors burst into life and begin their task of making a really tidy, straight plot to score the most points and lift that all-important trophy.
Two hours later and lots of blood, sweat and tears have been shed, the finish is in sight. I’m relieved that it doesn’t look ‘that bad’. I compare notes with my fellow ploughmen on the condition of the soil, the straightness of the furrows and where the tea tent is. We congregate near the cake stall and put the world to rights. The weather has been kind, the soil, not so bad and the cameraderie as always is memorable. Time to head back home again and oil those shears ready for the next outing.