STOKE BLISS AGRICULTURAL IMPROVEMENT SOCIETY
Affiliated to the British Society Of Ploughmen
The society was founded by local farmers in 1947; who annually organised a Ploughing Match which included a range of agricultural competitions held at different farms each year (but within a 10-mile radius of Stoke Bliss Church – a list of farms where matched have been held over the years can be found in the schedule) including ploughing, hedge laying, sheepdog trials and crop competitions. Other popular social events are held to fundraise for the event. The first ploughing match was held at Underley Farm, Stoke Bliss by kind permission of Mr Harry Dorrall; where we returned for our 60th year celebrations in 2007.
Many local families have been, or are still involved in the Society. Sadly the hedge laying no longer takes place, but the remainder of the competitions are thriving, with the sheepdog trials now taking place on a separate day in July at Birchyfield Farm, Bromyard (Bromyard Gala Site)
Entry to all ploughing competitions is currently £7.00. Success at a local level can result in representing the area further afield. Trophies and cash prizes are awarded for each class. These are announced on the day, with trophies being formally presented at the Annual Dinner in November.
Our claim to fame is that in 1959 JOHN GWILLIAM went on to represent Stoke Bliss at the National Ploughing Competitions where he came first, and went on to compete at the World Ploughing Competitions in Rome in 1960, and was crowned WORLD CHAMPION PLOUGHMAN. The John Gwilliam Memorial Cup is awarded each year in honour of His achievements. Why not come along and challenge Our Current Ploughing Champion for Stoke Bliss AIS for this year’s title. Annual Crop Competitions: Local farmers enter a selected field of their best growing crops; currently in four different classes of Winter Wheat, Spring Barley, Winter Barley, and Winter Oats. Judging takes place in June/early July by an affiliated team of judges from another Herefordshire Society. Competition is normally quite stiff, with some friendly banter amongst competitors! Winners are announced at the ploughing match with trophies awarded at the Annual Dinner in November.
Competitors enter from far and wide to compete in our local “one man and his dog”. There are three classes to enter into: Open Class – for the experienced competitors; Open Novice and a Local Farmers Class. This takes place at Birchyfield Farm Bromyard, by kind permission of The Stevenson Family. This event was formerly run on the same day as the Ploughing Match, however, this was noted to be at the very end of the Trialing season, the machinery noise from tractors on match day was reported to be a distraction to the dogs when competing, and entry numbers were dwindling. It was therefore decided to run the competitions on the same weekend as Mathon Sheepdog Trials, to enable competitors to attend both local Trials, this is also earlier in the Trials season, and we are pleased to report, is now extremely well supported by competitors who travel significant distances to compete. So although it is sad not to have the added attraction of the Sheepdog Trials on Ploughing Match Day – it is good that they continue to thrive. Spectators are more than welcome to attend the Trials too – look out for the dates either in the schedule or advertised in local events on this website.
The Cookery, Handicraft, Produce and Children’s Section:
The competitions provide an opportunity for you to complete in a whole range of areas ranging from home baking, preserves, a variety of handicraft work, photography, artwork, flower arranging, growing your own vegetables and flowers for the horticultural competitions, children’s competitions including pictures, handwriting and crafts in different age groups from under 4 years up to 14 years, to a farmers produce section of crop samples - all to be judged by visiting judges - qualified experts in their field.
The cost of each entry for this section is only 25p; whilst children’s classes are FREE. Following judging, entries in each class are awarded prizes as follows: 1st - £1, 2nd – 75p, 3rd – 50p unless otherwise stated in the schedule. Prizes for children’s classes: 1st – 50p, 2nd – 30p, 3rd – 20p. Each section also provides an opportunity for entrants to win a perpetual challenge cup; by accruing points for places awarded in the different classes, so the more you enter in a section the greater chance you have of being a winner.
Whatever your level of skill, it doesn’t matter. The judges will award prizes to the best entries, but will also give helpful comments/tips to unsuccessful entrants to help them improve their skills for future competitions; so even those who are beginners can gain from the experience.
Those who are not cookery or craft minded, pull out some of your photographs – do you have some that you could select that feature “Agriculture”, “Reflections and Shadows”, “Action”, “Black and white”, “Skies”, or “Waterways”.
You may be able to think of an apt caption for some too! Or take a look in your garden for that horticultural specimen sample of fruit, vegetables, salad or flowers and plants.
We hope that there is something for everyone; if you are mindful to join in the fun!
Activities for the children: To ensure that the children have plenty to occupy them too during the day. We have a bouncy castle, Punch and Judy show, and face painting on offer.
Live Craft demonstrations and stalls:
Over the years we have received many requests in our suggestion box for us to have demonstrations of craft items being produced, and other stalls from which visitors can purchase items. This area continues to evolve. Our main criterion is that we use local producers or suppliers for our stalls; which gives visitors a chance to BUY LOCAL. Please see below examples of stalls we have currently confirmed (we will continue to update this up to the event date):
Working ornamental blacksmith
Corn dolly making
Jams and chutneys