Time to fire the engines

Andy Bulmer's father David with a vintage tractor.
Andy Bulmer's father David with a vintage tractor.
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Contrary to what you might think, vintage tractors aren’t just the preserve of the retired generation, and Andy Bulmer of Sleights Farm proves it.

This weekend sees the 35th Amotherby Vintage Working Days event at his farm.

“I wouldn’t have been much older than Declan (his son) is now when I first started with old tractors. I wanted a vintage tractor and went to a sale but I came back disappointed, as I’d been outbid. My uncle then said I needn’t have bothered going and told me to go down to the bottom shed and amongst the nettles I’d find a Fordson.

“My dad, David, and I did it up. It’s a 1942 Fordson Standard and we even have the bill of sale from when it was new. It cost £144 10s from a company called Saville and Ezard.

“Our first show was at Wandles Farm near Slingsby. We trundled up without a clue as to what we were supposed to do. Fortunately we met Gordon Watson from Malton and a regular at these kind of events. He set us right straight away by saying: ‘There’s only two things thoo needs to know lad. Where you park your tractor and where the bar is!’”

Gordon Watson was responsible for relocating the event at Wandles Farm to Sleights Farm.

“I think they were getting short of space or needed the land for something else so Gordon said: ‘Thoo has a farm, has thoo a grass field? We’ll have a do at your house next week.’ And that was it! Before we knew it we had the whole of Castle Howard Steam Fair down here.”

The event has stayed but is now focussed on vintage farm machinery with over 100 tractors on display as well as stationary engines.

“We have a little road run on the Saturday that trundles around Old Malton, Kirby Misperton, Brawby and Barugh, but it’s the Sunday that is our big day and we have 600-1,000 visitors.

“It’s about the machines working so we’ll have threshing, ploughing and binding going on. There’s also our ploughing match with classes for vintage trailed and hydraulic ploughs. We raise around £1,500-£2,000 a year for charity over the two days.”

Andy also has a 1941 Case DC tractor. He found out how the crack in its grille came about when its original owner recognised it.

“This chap came up to me about 10 years ago and said he knew it was his tractor by the crack. He bought it to lead sugar beet into the factory in York. He’d had been told that the grille was cracked on a rough crossing from America which had resulted in two tractors colliding. Declan also has a 1948 Grey Fergie that has been rebuilt using parts from two tractors.”

Sleights Farm runs to just 50 acres but Andy and 15-year-old Declan make the most of it. This is a traditional mixed farming operation with sheep, cattle, pigs and arable land. There’s a little bit of poultry too. They also manage a further 30 acres at the other side of Malton.

Andy was dealt a terrible blow two-and-a-half years ago when his wife Angie passed away after a cancer battle. Understandably this changed things down on the farm for a while.

“We had 19 great years together and she loved the farm and was in her element helping Declan show the sheep. Her father worked on a farm and I met her when I had The Grapes pub in Great Habton for a couple of years, but she was given six months to live in 2012. We had a big party for her in September that year and she managed another year before leaving us.

“On the farm at present we have 50 ewes that are a mix of Texel, Beltex and Scotch Halfbred X plus two black Texels that Declan bought recently. We try to lamb around mid-February so that we get the lambs a little bigger for the Great Yorkshire Show where we show both Beltex and Texel X. We’re trying to get better quality in our fat lambs and in producing rams and females that sell well commercially as that’s where there’s a bit better money.

“We used to run up to 25-30 cattle on farm at one time. Declan now has three black Limousin heifers that are coming up to 18 months and were bought as calves. We’ve bucket-reared them. The plan is to sell those and buy perhaps 6-7 calves again and gradually build back up.”

Like father like son, Declan, is committed to farming too.

Last year the teenager, who is a member of Kirkbymoorside Young Farmers Club, won the young sheep handlers’ contest at the Great Yorkshire Show and was crowned UK Champion Sheep Handler at Newbury in the 12 to 16-year-olds class.

Happily, his father has a new partner in his life, Charlotte from Malton, who has two children. It is the children who liked the look of the black Texels and Declan bought the pair for them.

Amotherby Vintage Working Days take place this weekend at Sleights Farm, Amotherby.