The Line Of The Plough

Early morning in Mid September and the Ploughmen and women are already inspecting their allotted patch of West Sussex soil at The West Grinstead Ploughing Match. They walk the land stopping every now and then to check the soil condition and glance at their competitor's field trying to work out if they have better soil to plough.  Will the plough travel true? Do I have fewer stones then him? Ploughing is a serious business with one's pride at stake.  

 

Ian Williams with his two Clydesdale horses called Madge and Dolly at the West Grinstead Ploughing Match. © Scott Ramsey / Nothhelm.com

 

A judge at the ploughing match. Photo © Scott Ramsey / Nothhelm.com

Established in 1871, the West Grinstead Ploughing Match is an annual fixture in the West Sussex rural calendar.

They have gathered together for hundreds of years to pit their skills against each other and the soil they plough. This year's match was hosted by Westons Farm in Itchingfiled, near Horsham, with people travelling from far and wide to compete. 

Two Clydesdale horses called Madge and Dolly pulling a plough at the West Grinstead Ploughing Match in West Sussex. Photo © Scott Ramsey / Nothhelm.com

Two beautiful Clydesdale horses called Madge and Dolly at the West Grinstead Ploughing Match in West Sussex. Photo © Scott Ramsey / Nothhelm.com

Ian Williams guides the plough as it's pulled by his two Clydesdale horses during the ploughing match. Photo © Scott Ramsey / Nothhelm.com

With the help of his two Clydesdale horses, Ian Williams guides the plough through the soil as he competes in the ploughing match. Photo © Scott Ramsey / Nothhelm.com

The pride for his two Clydesdale horses can be clearly seen as Ian Williams leads them across the field. Concentration levels high it's man against soil as he guides the plough and his horses across the dark soil. One inch too far left or right on the first cut could cause him problems for the rest of the day. He stops and adjusts the plough, his two horses, Madge and Dolly, wait patiently looking back occasionally for the signal to proceed. He heaves the plough into position, the strain clearly visible on his face, and then gives the signal. They're off again.

The connection Ian has with Madge and Dolly is remarkable, they seem to work as one. Away from the crowds of spectators that hang to the sides of the field eager to talk and take photos during each turn Ian can concentrate, he's alone working the land. Away in a different time, a different world, in tune with his horses and the countryside around him.

Two horses, a man and a patch of earth that needs ploughing. May the tradition of the ploughmen continue for many years to come, a pure joy to watch.