2013 Hedgelaying & Ploughing Match


2013 Hedge Laying & Ploughing Match

The 2013 Melplash Agricultural Society annual hedge laying and ploughing match took place at Higher Langdon, near Beaminster by kind permission of Mrs Tessa Mackenzie-Green.  Having set up the site the day before in bright sunshine the organisers on match day were unfortunately met with thick coastal mist with visibility under 30 yards making it difficult for all competitors!!  However, the turnout across both hedging and ploughing was very good.

Despite the ploughmen not being able to see the pegs that they so carefully set out to make sure they kept their furrow straight the ploughing, as usual, was of a good standard and hotly contested.   The hedge laying classes were once again well supported with competitors coming from across the West Country – Dorset, Devon, Somerset and even as far as Wales.  The many spectators who braved the conditions saw people of all abilities pitting their skills against each other, and also saw local man Russell Woodham become the Overall Hedge Laying Champion for an impressive third time.  He received the Cleeves & Edwina Palmer Cup donated by the 2013 President, Mr Cleeves Palmer .



Saturday 21st September 2013

Match held at Higher Langdon, nr Beaminster by kind permission of Mrs Tessa Mackenzie-Green



Class 1 – Local                                                                    Class 2 – Novice                                               

1st   Russell  Woodham, Dorchester, Dorset              1st Robert Wood, Dorchester, Dorset

2ndMatthew Bagwell, Powerstock, Dorset                 2ndAlan Martin, Bourton, Dorset

3rd   Tim Frampton, Burstock, Dorset                          3rdRaymond Uhl, Dorset             

Class 3 – Open

1st   Martin Turner, Wellington, Somerset

2nd  Terry Coombe, Yarcombe, Devon

3rd   Colin Risdon, Cullompton, Devon 

Class 4 – Ladies Open                                                     Class 5 – Pairs Open

1st   Sharon Dowding, Corscombe, Dorset                  1stJill Exton & Jen Newman, Weymouth, Dorset

2nd  Lydia Harris, Cheslbourne, Dorset                        2ndDR Ford & S Cooper, Corfe Castle, Dorset

3rd   ——-                                                                          3rdMartin Shire & A Turner, Norton sub Hamdon, Somerset

Overall Hedge Laying Champion 2013 – Russell Woodham, Dorchester, Dorset 

Special Prizes

 Tidiest Kept Site                                                              Cleanest Cut

George Pidgeon, Honiton, Devon                                 Tim Frampton, Burstock, Dorset              

Judges:  Ian Connabeer, Henry Selway, Kevin Rendell & Les Bagwell


Class 7 – Vintage Trailed                                               Class 8 – Vintage Hydraulic                         

1st   Brian Johnston, Bridport, Dorset                          1st Michael Symonds, Whitchurch, Dorset           

2nd  Peter Smith, Bridport, Dorset                                2ndPeter Symonds, Bridport, Dorset      

3rd   —–                                                                             3rdRoly Collett, Bridport, Dorset             

4th   —–                                                                             4th Scott Symond, Chideock, Dorset       

Class 9 – Match Ploughing                                           Class 10 – Young Farmers                            

1st John Harris, Sturminster Newton                          1stMichael Crabb, Beaminster YFC                          

2ndAlan Bailey, Bettiscombe                     

3rdAlex Norman, Beaminster YFC

4thJack Penney

Class 11 – 2 & 3 Furrow 

1st Bruce Carter,Bridport, Dorset

2ndMichael Fooks, Poorton,  Dorset

3rdDavid Lockyer, Bridport, Dorset

4thTony Ascott, Chideock, Dorset

Class 12 – 4 or more Furrows                                     Class 13 – Contractors Challenge

1st   Barry Dennett, Broadwindsor, Dorset                1stJames Wallbridge, Hooke, Dorset

2nd  Andy Shute, Drimpton, Dorset                            2ndWilliam Doble, Crewkerne, Somerset

                                                                                         3rdDavid Crabb, Melplash Dorset

                                                                                         4thS Fry, Dorset

Special Prizes 

Novice Ploughman – 1st  David Lockyer, Bridport, Dorset             2nd          G Smith                                               

Best Strikeout in Classes 7-8-9:  John Harris

Best Finish in Classes7-8-9:  John Harris

Best Ploughing with John Deere tractor:  Andy Shute

Best Ploughing with Case International, Case or David Brown tractor using a Kvenerland plough:  Michael Symonds

Best ploughing with Ford New Holland Tractor, prize sponsored by Francis Bugler Ltd:  Brian Johnston

Best Finish with 4 or 5 furrow plough:  Barry Dennett 

Best Strikeout in Classes 10-11-12-13:  Jack Penney

Best Finish in Classes 10-11-12-13:  David Lockyer

Champion Ploughman in Classes 7-8-9:   John Harris

Reserve Champion in Classes 7-8-9:  Brian Johnston

Open Champion Ploughman in Classes 10-11-12-13: Bruce Carter

Open Reserve Champion in Classes 10-11-12-13:  Michael Fooks

Local Champion Ploughman in Classes 10-11-12-13:  Bruce Carter

Local Reserve Champion in classes -10-11-12-13:  Michael Fooks

Champion Vintage Class Ploughing:  Brian Johnston

Judges:  Bill Jolliffe, Stan Turner, John Yeates, David Wareham



The Cecil A Marsh Memorial Perpetual Challenge Cup for Best Hedging Local – Mr Russell Woodham

The Marcus Beresford Trophy for Best Hedging Novice – Mr Robert Wood

The Elizabeth Lady Williams Perpetual Challenge Cup for best Hedging Open – Mr Martin Turner

The Philip Hardwill cup for Best Young Farmer Hedging Open – Mr Matt Frampton

The Bartletts [Dorset] Ltd Cup for best pair hedging – Ms Jill Exton & Ms Jen Newman

The Melplash Agricultural Trophy for the best competitor in Ladies Class – Mrs Sharon Dowding

The Cleeves & Edwina Palmer cup for the overall Hedgelaying Champion – Mr Russell Woodham 


The Jack Dare Trophy for Champion Vintage Tractor Ploughing – Brian Johnston

Stuart Mallinson Champion Ploughman [open] Silver Perpetual Challenge Cup – Mr Bruce Carter

Champion Ploughman [Local] Silver Perpetual Challenge Cup – Mr Bruce Carter

Blandford & Webb Perpetual Challenge Cup for Champion Ploughman in Vintage & Match classes – Mr John Harris

The Streatfeild Perpetual challenge Cup best General Purpose Ploughing Young Farmers – Mr Michael Crabb

Inter-Club Silver Perpetual Challenge Cup – YFC with the highest individual scores – Beaminster Young Farmers

Silver Perpetual Challenge Salver presented by Creed Brothers – Contractors Challenge Ploughing – Mr James Wallbridge

Silver Perpetual Challenge Cup for Case International – Mr Mark Symonds

The Sam Dennett Perpetual Memorial trophy for Best finish with a four or five furrow plough – Mr Barry Dennett



Whilst the exact details may be uncertain, the origins of the Society go back to the day that Melplash Village Church was consecrated on 20th October 1846. The Church had been built by Mr James Bandinell of Melplash Court, a well known benefactor, and a new parish was carved out of the parish of Netherbury.

On the same day a ploughing match, was held to resolve a dispute between two farmers as to whose ploughman was the better. Each staked £5, a not inconsiderable sum in those days, and in the celebrations put on for the consecration of the church and at the feast that was held in the Melplash Inn, now the Half Moon, the assembled farmers and landowners agreed to form the Melplash Agricultural Society and hold a ploughing competition open to all comers on 20th October 1847.

So since 1847 the Melplash Agricultural Society has held an annual ploughing match.  Initially it was very much a local parish affair with horse drawn ploughs. It was a great occasion as it celebrated the successful gathering in of the harvest, and was the time when local farmers and their workers could show off their skills, impress their neighbours and have some fun.  There was often a wager or two to be had too.   After which, during the winter, they would plough the fields ready for sowing next year’s harvest.  They used to say with two horses you could plough an acre a day if it was going well but you would have to have a good furrow horse and one on the land.

After the war more tractors began to appear in the fields.  They started with the trailer ploughs and then with hydraulic power lifts on tractors, hydraulically operated implements were introduced.  Gradually tractors replaced the horses in the annual ploughing match and due to increased mobility attracted more competitors from around the locality.


Ploughing is an ancient craft, and even though the speed of doing it has changed through mechanisation, improved machinery and implements, the art of ploughing has changed very little.  The objective of ploughing is still to turn the top surface of the soil over to bury the plant growth and rubbish beneath where it will decompose.  The depth of ploughing depends on the condition of the soil and what is going to be grown.  A good ploughman is still someone who can keep a straight furrow whilst keeping the depth and turnover consistent.

sop_logoPLOUGHING MATCH (affiliated to the Society of Ploughman)  Today at the Melplash Agricultural Society Ploughing Match  there are various types of ploughing on show – reversible, conventional, vintage and classic classes, for ploughman of all ages and abilities including farmers, ‘Young Farmers’ and agricultural contractors from the locality or further afield.   There is a novice class to encourage people who have not competed in a competition before or for some considerable time.  Stewards are available on the day to help them and to answer any queries they may have.  A complimentary Ploughman’s lunch is provided to all competitors.


It is recognised that it is not easy these days to learn to plough, with less people working on the land gone are the days when the skill would be passed from generation to generation.   To give everyone a chance to have a go, there is a tractor and a plough available on Match day for anyone to have a try at ploughing with the help of an expert.

NHLS_New_Logo_BHEDGING (affiliated to the National Hedgelaying Society)  Hedgerows define the uniqueness of the West Dorset countryside; they are a living fence which can be finished at different heights to keep in livestock and are essential for wildlife habitat.  It is thought that the skill of hedgelaying dates back to Roman times.  As well as marking field boundaries, they provide shelter and firewood.  Many were made during the enclosures between 1770 and 1845.  Ditches were dug to mark the boundary and hedges then grew on the banks of earth thrown up.  In later years, men who laid hedges were paid to leave an oak tree every chain.  (If you look across the Marshwood Vale you can still see evidence of this)

There are 30 different styles of hedge laying in the UK developed over many years to cope with the soil, topography and climate of the area.   Although there are three different styles of Dorset Hedging they all follow the same principles.  The preferred choice in this area is as follows:

Pleachers (cut stems) are laid flat and are secured by twisting ends of each pleacher under the proceeding one.  Crooks are only used for securing at the start and to finish off.


In order to preserve this ancient art for future generations the Society aims to encourage more people to learn and develop the skills.  Every year prior to the hedge laying competition the Society hosts a free training day for novices and Young Farmers on how to lay a Dorset Style hedge.   Attendees are encouraged to enter the novice hedge laying competition on match day.

HEDGELAYING MATCH – On Match day there are various classes where hedge layers of all abilities can compete and demonstrate their skills.  Local (12 miles radius of Melplash Village Church), Novice, Open, Young Farmers (Open) and Pairs (Open).  All classes are free to enter.  All hedging competitors who finish their work to the satisfaction of the judges will receive a small donation towards their expenses.  A complimentary ploughman’s lunch is provided to all competitors in the ploughing and hedge laying classes.