Country Show a Great Family Day Out

This week I am in the company of Rowan Allan who is putting the finishing touches to the 2018 West Grinstead and District Ploughing Match which this year is being held at Priors Byne Farm, Partridge Green on Saturday 15th September.

The West Grinstead and District Agricultural Society Ploughing Match Hon. Secretary, Rowan Allan

Rowan Allan, the societies long serving Hon. Secretary, says “Priors Farm is always a popular venue. John and Alison Ford always give everyone a warm welcome – it’s our third time here and the agricultural community is looking forward to coming together once again.”

John Ford’s farm is mixed arable with a herd of Sussex cattle.

This year the farming community have been facing the challenges of the freezing, wet spring and the long hot, dry summer, against the backdrop of a government exploring changes of emphasis in the nation’s support of our vital farming industry with the uncertainty that has brought.

An increasingly urban society can sometimes seem out of touch with farming’s important role in stewarding the land, practising good husbandry and sustainable food production with a deep understanding and respect for the environment and the natural world. My experience of the farming community is that they are passionate about their responsibilities and rightly proud of their stewardship.

Rowan comments “Balancing one’s heritage and nature with the needs of food production is perfectly possible.”

The West Grinstead and District Ploughing Match and Agricultural Society has been holding shows for over 140 years. It seeks to re-connect town and country and educate the public.

Rowan says “The ploughing match provides a shop window for people to engage with what farming and the countryside are really about.”

The society’s bursary programme continues to provide financial support to enable and encourage young people to take up careers in the agricultural industry.

One of the current beneficiaries of a bursary is Kobe Hedgehock. He is rising 15 and is continuing his academic schooling whilst studying at Plumpton College as well.

Rowan explains “Kobe wrote to us and his Headmaster to take a day out to attend the course – it’s helped him focus on his school work as well as beginning a path in agriculture. We’re delighted that the bursary and our support made it possible.”

Creating vocational opportunities like this through education is remarkable and hope filled.

Rowan tells me that alongside the twelve classes of ploughing, ranging from Novice to Open, the ever popular Horse Ploughing and Vintage steam will be very much in evidence. This year entrants ranging in age from 14 into their 80s will be competing.

The ever popular lamb handling session

Alongside the Livestock Show there will be a parade of Hounds, Terrier racing, a Clay Pigeon Shoot, Field and Produce competitions and the marvellous Harris Fun Fair with their classic rides – the lamb handling sessions are always a favourite with youngsters – fun for all the family!

I will be supporting Rowan and this year’s Chairman, Mark Streeter, at Priors Barn Farm, Partridge Green, RH13 8EQ on Saturday 15th September for the 2018 West Grinstead and District Agricultural Society Ploughing Match and Show. Entrance is just £6 per person with children under 14 free – it’s going to be a fantastic family day – I hope to see you there!

For more information contact Rowan Allan at H. J. Burt through www.hjburt.co.uk or go to www.westgrinsteadploughing.co.uk.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

West Grinstead Ploughing & Agricultural Society Show

The Plough Match
The Plough Match

This week I am in the company of Rowan Allan who for eighteen years has been the Honorary Secretary of The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society. The Society is holding its 2016 Annual Ploughing Match and Country Show this coming Saturday 17th September, at Aglands Farm, (A281) Picts Lane, Cowfold, RH13 8AN.

The show celebrates our local farming and rural community with ploughing, livestock, field and domestic produce competitions. Terrier racing, livestock handling, displays by the Utility Gundog Society, tractor rides, traction engines and the Harris Fun Fair are just some of the activities on offer – fun for all the family.

Rowan Allan of H.J. Burt
Rowan Allan of H.J. Burt

Rowan is well known as a partner in H.J. Burt based in Steyning and Henfield. As a Chartered Surveyor and a Fellow of the CAAV he has strong professional and personal links with the rural and agricultural community in Sussex. I ask Rowan how long H.J. Burt has been associated with the Society and show, he replies “The Society was founded in 1871 and we’ve been involved since 1887”. He explains that the show seeks to honour and learn from the past whilst looking confidently to the future.

With people increasingly living and working in urban environments there can sometimes seem to be a lack of connection between town and country. The Society seeks to educate and make apparent how important the vital work of the farming and rural community is to our nation. It ensures that skills and development are not lost. Rowan says “Things like the young calf and lamb handling classes at the show ensure that these skills are maintained and are an opportunity to connect those of us living in towns with the rural way of life.”

A fine Shorthorn bull from the livestock competitions
A fine Shorthorn bull from the livestock competitions

I comment that I am always delighted to find how democratic and inclusive our rural communities are. Rowan agrees and adds “The farming and rural community really values the important and varied contributions people make. That’s why we make a long-service award each year to a person who has worked steadily over many years, perhaps as a tractor driver or in some other role. We honour and affirm best practice and dedication across the farming community with our awards and prizes.” He smiles and continues “There’s no harm in a bit of healthy competition and not just in the ploughing match.”

As we talk Rowan praises the contributions of all those involved in the show. He emphasises the work of all the Society’s enthusiastic Chairman over the years and not least the current Chairman, Dominic Gardner. He also acknowledges the support of the Honorary Assistant Secretary, Felicity Kensett, who is herself a farmer’s daughter and plough lady.

Lamb handling classes at the show
Lamb handling classes at the show

Rowan draws my attention to the Society’s Bursaries saying “The Society launched the Bursary Scheme three years ago to assist those keen to pursue a career in agriculture. Potential candidates need to be working in the Society’s area. Last year’s bursary winner was Chris Dare from Huddlestone Farm, near Steyning. It’s helping him to study at a Dairy Management Academy in Cheshire.” This practical approach is evident in much of the Society’s work. Rowan remarks “It’s important that we invest in and encourage another generation into agriculture and its associated industries.”

Rowan Allan is passionate about the community that he serves. The valuable gift of his professional skills and time to The West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society over so many years has blessed this farming and rural community. He reflects their generous, constant qualities of stewardship and is deserving of our thanks. Thanks should also be expressed to Mr and Mrs Gordon Tregear and the South Lodge Estate for generously hosting the show this year.

The 2016 West Grinstead & District Ploughing & Agricultural Society Annual Ploughing Match and Country Show is going to be a fantastic family day whether you are from town or country. Entry is just £5 per person with no charge for children under 14. For more information contact Rowan Allan at H.J. Burt via www.hjburt.co.uk or go to www.westgrinsteadploughing.co.uk.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.