How the Knaresborough Tractor Run grew to become Yorkshire's biggest - but stays true to its origins

Rounding up sheep is one thing, organising 384 tractors quite another. Yorkshire’s largest tractor run is set up by a sheep farmer and a dozen or so former young farmers club members who meet up throughout the year, and weekly since Christmas, in readiness for this year’s Knaresborough Tractor Run that takes place next Sunday March 17.

Sheep farmer Steve Brown is chairman of the tractor run that started life as a fun Young Farmers Club event in 2012 with around 16 tractors and has turned into a glorious cavalcade of colourful farm machines wending their way through rural villages having started at the Great Yorkshire Showground, making their way to Pateley Bridge for a hog roast before all gradually peeling off, with the home tractors ending up back in Knaresborough some hours later.

Steve says none of those involved ever saw it growing to the size it has, which became hugely popular following the decision made to run it in the memory of former YFC member Mike Spink in 2017.

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“We’ve raised over £100,000 for Yorkshire Air Ambulance,” says Steve. “The first year we did it in Mike’s name we shot up to 75 tractors and thought that was amazing, then we doubled the next year and again the following year.

The Knaresborough Tractor RunThe Knaresborough Tractor Run
The Knaresborough Tractor Run

“We never envisaged it growing to the scale it has. The time of year helps because there isn’t a lot going on in the farming calendar other than lambing, although we are a week later this year because Mothering Sunday clashed, so we have pushed it back a week from when it would have been normally. We’ve done that because last time it clashed we really struggled with volunteers.

The YFC tag has been dropped from the tractor run’s title, but Steve is keen to point out the club’s members are still involved and it’s really all down to logistics in terms of the planning and effort needed for what is now a huge event.

“It’s just grown so big and since all of us who started it are no longer members, as we are over age, and we are happy to carry on organising it, it makes good sense and doesn’t then become too much for younger members.

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“Knaresborough YFC is very much still involved, it’s our home club. It’s great that everyone is a part of it whether today’s young farmers club members are driving a tractor, marshalling or rattling buckets. They are all important to the event.

“We get a lot of sponsorship towards the funding of the day and that deals with all the insurance costs and health and safety issues. It’s all about making sure everything goes smoothly, everyone has a good time and we raise a lot of money.

Steve says that Knaresborough Tractor Run’s popularity is such that they now attract from further afield than their core area.

“The lion’s share is from Nidderdale, but we have a bit of following from certain areas like Settle and from up on the A66. In previous years we’ve had a group set off at 4.30 in morning who have come up from Lincolnshire. One of their friends had needed the Yorkshire Air Ambulance which had pretty much saved his life, so they came to us for a ride out and show their support. We have tractors descending on the Great Yorkshire Showground from all corners of Yorkshire.

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Steve says that the committee has tried to encourage more vintage tractors to the tractor run, something that happens a lot during summer tractor runs but perhaps understandably is not quite so prevalent in early springtime when those with cab-less tractors might find the conditions not the greatest.

“We would love to see more vintage tractors. They’re always nicer tractors to see for those that are watching them go by, great to show the history and someone’s pride and joy that’s 60-70 years old. We got around 50 vintage tractors last year and everyone said the atmosphere was a lot better with no cab on and that they wouldn’t go back to doing it with a cab, but if it’s snowing and blowing it might not be the same.

Because of its popularity Steve says that pre-registration, before the day, is now their preferred option for those wanting to take part.

“We don’t want to discourage anyone and so we will still accept entries on the day but a lot

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of tractor runs are now pre-register and we are now going down that route. It’s just a lot less paperwork on arrival.

“Up until last year it was all sign in on the day, everybody’s details, tractor details, show disclaimer, sign it. It was very intensive. We’re there from 6am every year and it is always fairly busy from 6.30am, so signing in beforehand really helps.

“We’ve had our meeting point for the start of the run outside the Brown Gate, near the sheep sheds, for the last three years and we’re there again this year. We try to change the course a little every year but always include villages like Burton Leonard and Markington on the way to Pateley and Darley and Hampsthwaite to finish in Knaresborough. The support in the villages is phenomenal.

Steve and the rest of the committee also support other local tractor Runs.

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“They support us, and we should support them. The Rudolph Run in Keighley is probably my favourite. It’s incredible how those guys do it with all the lights. I’ve been to Lothersdale Discussion Group that organises it and they asked what we thought they should do when they started, we all talk to one another.

“The Spink family is still very much involved too. Mike’s auntie and cousin are on the committee and we run things by his parents and family. They are all very much heart and soul of Knaresborough Tractor Run.

Knaresborough Tractor Run will take place Sunday March 17 starting at the Great Yorkshire Showground (Brown Gate) at 9.30am – reaching Pateley Bridge by approximately 12-12.30pm

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