Tractors that are being restored to run and run

Rachel Hodgson and father Les Watson from Leven, East Yorkshire
Rachel Hodgson and father Les Watson from Leven, East Yorkshire
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“It was almost the end of harvest. Tractor Sam, too old to work, dozed in the yard. Rufus the carthorse swished flies away with his tail. A black saloon car swerved and stopped at the gate to Thomson’s Yard. The driver and his son leant on the gate, staring at Sam, who was singing his song.”

“I’m a tractor, my name is Sam,

I’ve known Farmer T. since he sat in his pram.

Despite my rust, I’m the sort you can trust,

I’m still a fine tractor, oh yes I am.”

These are the words that open the children’s story of Sam For Sale written by Heather Maisner and first published in 1986. It’s an endearing story that charts Sam’s possible acquisition by a museum only to find a new lease of life when a younger tractor has a flat battery as the bales are to be brought in. My children all loved the story when they were little ones and it sits in pride of place on my office bookshelf along with other long since read classics such as Uncle Bumpo, The Jolly Postman and How To Eat Fried Worms.

Old tractors just like Sam have had a new lease of life in the past two decades not because of their return to farm usage but as a combination of a nostalgia kick and providing a whole new event season in the rural calendar. There had always been a market for tractor enthusiasts who simply enjoyed restoring the likes of the Grey Fergie, Nuffield and David Brown to their former glories or those who just wanted to relive days gone by but today’s Tractor Sam has become a ‘must have’ in the world of the Tractor Run!

If you’ve ever been fortunate enough, or unfortunate if you were looking to get somewhere on time, to witness a tractor run you will see what has become a very colourful spectacle in the countryside. Tractors of green, red, grey, blue, yellow and cream as well as many more variations chug their way merrily along with their proud owners behind the wheel hoping that this isn’t the day when they will be the ones towed ignominiously back to the start, or worse still that they need to get a trailer to take them home.

They have also become another valuable fundraising source for charities with those taking part in the runs paying an entry fee and buckets being circulated around the various villages that tractor runs visit.

Rachel Hodgson saw their potential last year. Her father Les Watson came up with the Leven Tractor Run with a friend, Paul Wildbore, five years ago and last year they raised £2000.

“My children’s pre-school in Driffield is struggling for funds and I saw this as a new idea that isn’t asking parents to provide things like raffle or tombola prizes. I just asked dad whether we could do one and he’s helped such a lot in getting entries in and sorting out where it will go. I’ve never been on a tractor run myself but I used to drive dad’s old grey Fergie around when I was younger on our smallholding that had pigs and sheep. We’re also raising funds for the Firefighters charity as my husband Steve is a fireman and we’re using their training ground as the start of the first ever Driffield Tractor Run next Sunday, April 12.

‘The response we’ve had has been amazing and we already had 50 tractors entered and entry fees paid by last weekend. Dad reckons we may get to around 100 tractors. That will be just brilliant.

“Every tractor entered brings an entry fee of £12 and then there are the bucket collections in the villages. Local farm machinery company Robert D. Webster have sponsored the lunch that will be served at a farm en route and local supermarket Nisa have also sponsored refreshments so everything we take on the day and beforehand will go to the two charities.”

Les’ own tractor is a freshly painted Grey Fergie that was once a completely different livery. His early life was spent around tractors and on farm. He tells of how the market for old tractors has grown since the phenomenon of the tractor run has taken hold.

“I was brought up at Hallgarth Farm in Leven where my dad was the foreman so I had always been around tractors. I became a toolmaker and then moved into domestic engineering but there’s something about old tractors that every generation seems to be fascinated by and we get such a good turnout of tractors and spectators. My tractor is a Grey Fergie but it was liveried up in dark green because it was a Hull Parks tractor and that was their colour.

“It’s not had 50 shades of grey sprayed on it since but last year it was re-sprayed and smartened up again ready for this year’s runs.

“Some guys are now restoring them to a standard even better than when they came out of the factory. There’s now a big market for second-hand parts too.”

Rachel, who is a partner in Onlookers opticians based in Driffield, is raising the funds for the First Steps Pre-school as well as Firefighters. She hopes that the run will also help with the long-term future of the pre-school.

“Everyone has got right behind it so far and I’m now just praying that we’ll have fine weather.”

The Driffield Tractor Run will take place on Sunday, April 12 starting from Driffield Fire Station. Tractors are to arrive from 9.30am with the run starting at 10.45am. If you would like to enter you should call Rachel on 07796 956323.