The 2014 Little Casterton Working Weekend was held on the same fields as the previous year in the picturesque countryside just north of Stamford, Lincs. This invitation-only event always tries to put on something new and in 2014, that was a muck-spreading display, perhaps not everyone's cup of tea and certainly not one to be inspected at close quarters, but innovative all the same. In the other field, standing corn had been left to ripen for the usual harvesting display and a few ploughing plots had been marked out for those who wanted to present ploughing to match standards without it being obliterated within minutes.
The muck-spreading display was headed up by the magnificent Ransomes & Rapier swivel grab owned and operated by Willie Chatterton and powered by an Allis Chalmers crawler via the PTO. This was picking up the muck and loading it into a pair of Ferguson muck-spreaders. However, it did amuse me that if they'd drawn in the spreading outfit at a different angle, the tractor would have not needed to keep moving backwards and forwards to avoid the driver having his head knocked off by the swinging crane. In reality one man would have got off his tractor and operated the crane himself back in the day. The first outfit was totally grey Ferguson but the later red spreader was towed by an International B250 or B275, presumably a suitable MF135 would be too late a machine for the era of the show.
A couple of Fordson Majors were also present, one with a front-end fork-loader and another with an unusual rear-mounted lift-&-tip apparatus, presumably for loosening or turning over the muck. Elsewhere a tricycle Minneapolis Moline machine was mated to what looked like a small Bomford spreader which distributed pre-dumped loads of muck. All machines used a power-driven auger mechanism to fling the muck out over quite a wide distance. Just back from the huge heap of muck, a selection of track-layers were parked up early in the day and but eventually were fired up and went to work ploughing one quarter of the field. The pair of Fowler steam ploughing engines looked after the far quadrant over the weekend, and the rest of the field was given over to the tractors boys to play around in, be it ploughing, cultivating or rolling.
Most owners were happy to tour up and down all day, trying out various piece of machinery for a bit of variety, some others just doing a nominal couple of rounds so as not to scratch the paint or dirty the tyres too much. Along the hedge side in front of this area was a long line of stationary engines spaced out to fill the space, ranging from the humble farmer's friend, the Lister D up to the large estate engines but the star of the line-up was for me the well-head set-up at the far end. Another striking exhibit was the Furphy's Farm water cart from Victoria Australia with the age-old adage "Good, Better, Best, Never let it rest, Till your Good is Better, and your Better Best", parked up alongside the pair of living-vans.
Over the dividing hedge, in the harvesting field, a pair of Ransomes threshing-drums were belted up to steam engines for power, but how I wish they could use period wooden ladders instead of modern aluminium ones for access. At the end of the weekend, they were left with some huge piles of straw as unfortunately there were no balers or bunchers available to complete the set-up. The harvesting display featured a mixture of self-propelled and trailed combines, plus a John-Deere binder. The self-propelled machines were both Massey-Harris, one a tanker, the other an earlier bagger machine. The trailed machines were a Ransomes and a McCormick Deering.
Another rare and unusual supporting machine was a Jones Invicta self-propelled baler, and another was a huge hay-sweep mounted onto the front of a Farmall M. Although this was mounted on a swivel, I think the steering would be interesting. I wouldn't be surprised if you had to treat it like you were reversing and start if off in the opposite direction to the one you wanted to go. Yet another was the automatic bale lifter mounted to the side of a trailer by means of hooked poles, doubling the width on the field but saving the man pitching the bales up to the height of the stack on the trailer.
Back in the other field, the local volunteers were catering for both visitors and exhibitors' lunches. Casterton is one of the few events we go to where they sponsor a meal for the exhibitors, which is very welcome during what is hard day's work for many of them. Just along from the marquee Jeff Rowlett had bought along his collection of chainsaws together with his Unipower timber tractor and log trailer. Further down the 20-49 Motor Club members showed a selection of vintage & classic cars and light commercials. All in all, another successful weekend for the organisers.