1 October 1999

Past champion aims to keep on going straight

Some people think they can plough well, and there are

those who can actually do it.

Geoff Ashcroft spoke to

past master Mike Holloway,

as he prepared for this

autumns event

"IT WAS like a dream which came true," recalls Mike Holloway about his win in the 1995 British National ploughing championships, which earned him a place in the England team at the following years World Champion-ship event.

"Winning is really about prestige – knowing you are capable of ploughing with the best in the world does give you quite a buzz," he says. "And no-one can ever take that away from you."

At his 113ha (280 acre) Lower Gwarthlow farm on the English-Welsh border at Montgomery, near Shrewsbury, Mr Holloway hones his skills on stubble with the farms four-furrow reversible before practising with his Kverneland two-furrow conventional match plough, ahead of a competition.

And since winning the British championship title in 1995, Mr Holloway has been keen to repeat his performance and has already dusted off his match plough and put a strategy into place. But hes careful not to give too many tips away before the big match .

"Its all about attention to detail and you need a sharp eye," he says. "I see myself as a perfectionist when match ploughing – everything has to be exactly right."

Mr Holloway has been competing in the British National ploughing match since 1971, but started match ploughing in 1968 after catching the bug while watching at a local event.

"Ive never really looked back and slowly worked my way up the match plough ladder over the last 31 years," he says.

Along with winning the British National in 1995, he finished runner up in 1988 and achieved fourth place last year. Additionally he has numerous other wins to his credit including the Welsh Champion-ships in 1987 and 1988, plus several wins at Young Farmers National ploughing matches.

"I think theres a ploughman in everyone," he says. "Theres nothing quite like arrow-straight furrows, and slowly transforming a green field to brown site with not so much as a weed poking through."

But theres a ploughing pedigree in the family. Mr Holloways uncles were skilled horse ploughmen and his brother-in-law is championship ploughman John Hill.

"My 10-year-old son Edward, is showing a keen interest and when I retire, I could be his coach, and his uncle John could provide some useful tips," he says.

But even after 31 years of match ploughing, theres no early retirement in sight for Mr Holloway, only a slight change in direction as a two-furrow reversible match plough now lurks in the back of the barn.

"I think reversible ploughing is the up-and-coming class for match ploughing. More and more people use reversibles on the farm, so it makes sense to support the class and encourage new blood into the competition," he says. "It wont be any easier than conventional ploughing because youve got two sets of bodies to match up – it will be quite a challenge."

But before he makes the switch to reversible ploughing, theres still one more ambition to achieve.

"Ive always wanted to represent England in the World Championships as a team with John Hill – but weve both never qualified at the same time," he says. "Who knows, maybe this year it could happen." &#42