Saturday last saw us (Ross, Amy, Daniel, Kevin and Sony) heading north up the A90 to Brechin, Angus for the Scottish Ploughing Championships. Not something you can do in London easily and so we took the chance and the gap in the bad weather to get out and see what makes a world champion ploughman.
You could do things old school: two men, two horses and one plough share and a large field.
Or you could do something a little more 20th century and drive a “sit-on-top” tractor with two shares on the back and an engine to pull you along. These guys were not much faster than the horses and some of the tractors were smaller than the large animals.
The aim of the competition is to plough your bit of field as evenly as possible. The furrows have to be straight – farmers take it seriously getting off the tractor every few metres with a tape measure to measure the width and depth – as straight as humanly possible. Also they need to be evenly spaced and the ploughed soil has to be turned over in exactly the same way in each furrow. Each furrow has to be the same depth along the length – any variation is penalised.
The General Purpose Class, or 21st Century Ploughing Class, uses the most modern, up-to-date tractors farming can buy. Computers, hydraulics, auto-levellers, heated and suspended seats enclosed in a large glass cab all make for a cleaner ploughing session. Some of the machines could do ten furrows at a time. What would have taken two men with some horses a couple of weeks to plough, one of these machines can do in a day.