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The Story Of The Great Challenge

Challenge History

The first Great Challenge took place in 1994 after Michael Davies invited all comers to a steam ploughing match.  This was immediately assisted by Robert Pelly, great grandson of Robert Fowler (John Fowler’s brother) who presented an original trophy presented to Robert Fowler in 1883.  Richard Pierce readily took up the challenge – hence the title.

The first event was planned to take place near Bedford that year.  However torrential rain put paid to these plans and it had to be cancelled at the last minute.  Fortunately it was possible to rearrange it to take place some months later in conjunction with the Boddington Vintage Association at Lower Boddington.  This was a great success and formed the basis of future Challenges. Five sets took part and the trophy was won by a team led by Peter Stanier and Richard Pierce with the Fowler single cylinder engines.

The second challenge took place in 1998 at Preston Capes in conjunction with the National Ploughing Championships. Once again heavy rainfall occurred in the week prior to the event only easing sufficiently to allow the competition to start this time with 10 sets competing.  The trophy was won by Michael Davies and his team with the Z7 engines.

Perhaps the Challenge was unlucky because in the run up to the 2000 Challenge a national fuel strike cause major problems for competitors.  However this did not stop a magnificent 11 sets competing near Lincoln against all the odds.  This was held as part of the World Ploughing Championships of that year. Once again rain played its part causing emergency arrangements to undertaken to allow the competition to start.

Challenge History

2002 saw a return to the Boddington Vintage Association occasion at Lower Boddington where the Challenge took place in dry and peaceful conditions. This time the trophy went to a team led by Michael Beeby from Rempstone.  8 sets competed.

 For the 50th anniversary of steam ploughing at Rempstone and the 40th anniversary of the Steam Plough Club the Challenge in 2006 took place at Rempstone during a dry and sunny weekend.  At last perhaps the jinx was silenced.  On this occasion no less that 13 sets competed the line up of 27 engines on the Saturday evening producing a magnificent sight. The trophy was won by Richard Vernon and his Howard tackle.  This was by far the most spectacular Challenge so far and included the use of a helicopter to film the occasion.

The most recent Challenge was held in October 2018 click here for details

This was held at Anstey, north Warwickshire, with 10 sets competing. Following a glorious first day the second was curtailed by heavy rain.

However sufficient work had been undertaken to award prizes to the worthy winners.

All these occasions have seen the club at its best with participants bringing engines and ploughs at their own expense over long distances with no promise of recompense.  The original objective set out by Michael Davies has certainly been realised.  This is to place emphasis on the implement.

As a result many ploughs have been overhauled to take part and now remain ready for use.

John Billard


Challenge History