JOINING the competition at Llanwarne Agricultural Society’s special anniversary ploughing match at the weekend was 93-year-old Dennis Hitchings, widely reckoned to be one of the oldest ploughmen in the country.

The well-known county figure who only took up competition ploughing nearly 30 years ago at the age of 64, crowned a momentous day at Llanwarne Court for the society’s 75th anniversary by taking an astonishing second place in his class.

The Llanwarne event was launched during the war in 1943, part of the ‘War Ag’s’ plea to plough up pastureland in support of the war effort. The scene at Llandinabo Court , Harewood End, back then would have featured Land Girls in their broad-brimmed hats and breeches competing in their own class.

Despite Saturday’s overcast weather, the society’s birthday event went off well with competitors coming from as far afield as Bridgnorth and Banbury. A blessing the plough ceremony was held in the morning before the ploughing and popular sheep dog trials began. There was also plenty of activity in the horticultural and produce marquee organised by the ladies’ committee.

Society secretary Nigel Morris said Llanwarne’s launch during the war was out of the ordinary, but that support for the event has remained strong with enthusiasm passing down the generations. Horace Samuels was a founder member of the society, his son the well-known former world champion ploughman Viv.

“The fact that Llanwarne’s society began during the war is very unusual,” said Mr Morris. “It broke off from the Harewood End society who didn’t want to have ploughing matches at that time. I suspect the War Ag would have been getting people to plough up pastureland, so Llanwarne went ahead.”

Mr Hitchings joined other competitors on the field for the anniversary match, having won his first at the West Midlands Vintage in 1989, since when he has gone on to win scores of prizes. In 2007, he was judged in top position at five different ploughing matches. A widower, the following year Dennis was married to Ionwen Williams of Llanwarne Court.

Said Mr Morris: “Dennis had retired from ploughing a few years ago but his wife persuaded him to take part in the anniversary match as it was held at his home!”