The National Vintage Tractor Road Run, 27th March 2016

Text by Andrew Green; photos by Cynthia Underdown.

The NVTRR has now been running for nearly 30 years and for the first time in its history had finally arrived here in Devon. There were 679 entries, which was the second biggest total ever.

It was very capably organised by the experienced Bobby Ball from Cornwall, a team of our friends at the East Devon Tractor Club and with administration support from Ian & Angela Minshull. They hoped that around £10K would be raised for three charities, mainly the Devon Air Ambulance, the Devon Freewheelers & St Lukes Hospice in Plymouth. The organisers had some problems planning the route, trying to deal with the local Council traffic department who raised late objections to the original route; a very late compromise was reached but it resulted in a much reduced distance.

Well, I had never been on such a road run before and it’s rather different to sitting on a tractor plodding up and down a field all day! The weather on Easter Sunday was mixed to put it politely! It was rather wet when I arrived and I soon saw Paul Stanbury who helped me unload and we found our way into the middle of the oval at Smeatharpe Stadium on the old WW2 airfield north of Honiton. After managing a warm cup of coffee we then ran into Ross Hext, Martin Smale and friends who looked very cold and wet, having already driven all the way from Cheriton Fitzpaine to Smeatharpe! They did survive & get over it, I’m pleased to say!!

We went back into the oval and waited for tractors to move off in turn. They were sent off in groups of about forty every nine minutes, so it took quite a long time to get away. Paul and I travelled around together; we began in sunshine, travelling through Smeatharpe village and then heading north up to the Blackdown Hills, then very close to the Wellington Monument and eventually arriving in Hemyock. There were quite a few spectators in many places along the way and we never experienced any hassle from other road users!

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I’m unsure of exactly where we went as I’m a foreigner and this was all new territory to me! Eventually we pulled into the lunch stop which was quite close to Dunkeswell just as it started to rain, sleet & hail! We managed to get in the back of a tyre fitter’s van to shelter and eat our sandwiches. Half an hour later we emerged into the rain and were back on our way, through Dunkeswell and onto a mix of roads and tracks. This was very slow moving in places.

Upottery looked pretty even in the driving rain and eventually it was back to base at Smeatharpe. Gosh, it was a job to get off the tractor as the knees wouldn’t work and Ken Nott looked as bedraggled as I did when we were both loading! However, the hot bath when I eventually got home was magic! I think that the whole event was brilliantly organised and I am delighted that financially it has given those three deserving charities some much needed funds. I would also like to say what an excellent job the Marshals did; there was always a friendly wave even though they must have been as cold and wet as we were!

An unforgettable day, never to be repeated in our lifetime.