SPONSORSHIP from a leading rural insurer will enable Cumbria ploughmen and women to take part in a virtual ploughing contest.

Following the cancellation of many of the UK’s ploughing matches because of COVID-19, VPlough has been set up to provide an online ploughing contest which will enable ploughing enthusiasts old and young, with vintage to modern machinery, to demonstrate their skills.

Entries are now open for the event which works by competitors ploughing a piece of land near where they live and having their efforts photographed or videoed. If entrants already have media from the 2019 season, these can also be submitted. A panel of experienced ploughing match judges will view the results and award prizes across a range of classes.

VPlough is the brainchild of Grapevine Events Ltd Director Karen Wheeler, from Kent, who has been a ploughing contest enthusiast since her childhood. Her mother won ploughing prizes for decades, and Karen toured the countryside to watch her compete. Her love of ploughing led to Karen serving as the Secretary of one of the ploughing world’s key events – The Weald of Kent Ploughing Match Association for 23 years.

With COVID-19 resulting in ploughing matches being cancelled, Karen and her fellow Directors, also ploughing enthusiasts, came up with the idea of a virtual event to keep ploughing contests going – while raising money for all 23 UK & Ireland Air Ambulance Charities.

The result is VPlough – supported by the Society of Ploughmen. The VPlough web site: https://www.vplough.co.uk is now live and accepting entries, which will be judged and made available for public viewing on September 26. Entrants have a choice of 28 classes to choose from including ploughing, machinery & heavy horse showing. There is also a Steam Rally field which brings together a myriad of photographs and videos from across the country.

Karen said: “Ploughing is part of our farming heritage and a rare chance for farmers to meet others socially after harvest. We’re determined to keep the spirit of ploughing matches alive and have set up VPlough to give existing competitors a chance to show off their skills – while hopefully attracting young farmers to have a go as well.

“The event will be judged virtually by a team of experienced and knowledgeable judges and awards given for best in class, and while the event cannot replace a real ploughing match, we hope it will be a fun event to participate in, as well as raise money for our much-valued air ambulance services.”

David Harrison, Sector Lead for Farming and Agriculture at sponsors, NFU Mutual, said: “As the UK’s leading rural insurer, set up by farmers 110 years ago, we understand the key part ploughing matches hold in the farming calendar both as a way of celebrating traditional agricultural skills and providing a social forum.

“Farmers work long hours, often alone, and the cancellation of agricultural shows and events this year has removed opportunities for them to meet fellow farmers. VPlough is a great way to keep the spirit of ploughing matches alive and provide a virtual meeting place for farmers until they can get back together in future years.”

Last year more than 200 spectators, young and old, gathered at a charity vintage ploughing match held at Allerby Hall, near Aspatria.

About 31 ploughmen from all over Scotland, Cumbria, Northumberland and Lancashire, took the opportunity to lay down a perfect furrow and helped raise more than £1,000 for a charity that provides day care for older adults, particularly those living with dementia.

The organising team have raised money every year, and have donated thousands of pounds to various local charities and causes.