The Gypsum Run

Posted by Chris Graham on 13th May 2022

We report on the Gypsum Run; a new charity tractor event that, thank’s to its initial success, looks set to become an early-season regular.

The Gypsum Run

The off-road section of the ‘Gypsum Run’ provided a unique opportunity to follow the ups and downs of the British Gypsum overland conveyor.

A good number of tractor road runs take advantage of the scenic and quiet, East Sussex countryside around the village of Brightling, but enthusiasts Jonathan Playfoot and Trevor Charman wanted to organise something a little bit different.

Originally, their run had been scheduled to take place in 2020, but the you-know-what put a stop to that. “The aim was to raise money for a good cause,” Jonathan explained, “specifically to provide some financial help for a friend who was suffering with cancer. So Trevor and I came up with a road run idea, with a twist.

The Gypsum Run

Participants in larger tractors didn’t get to enjoy the off-road section of the run, due to an ageing, wooden bridge with strict weight and width limits.

“But the pandemic got in the way and the plans had to be shelved. Now, two years on, I’m happy to report that our friend has made an amazing recovery but, as we were still keen on the road run idea, we switched to raising funds for the charity, Cancer Research.”

The Gypsum Run

Gathering at the club in Mountfield village, before the start. Turnout was good, despite it being Mothering Sunday.

However, the aspect that sets this run apart from others stems from the fact that Trevor Charman is an explosives expert employed by British Gypsum. The company operates a large, underground mine near Robertsbridge, East Sussex, and built a four-mile conveyor in 1986 that carries raw material between the sites at Mountfield and Brightling. An unpaved service road follows the conveyor along its meandering path, and Jonathan and Trevor secured permission from the company for the tractors to use a section of that on the run, enabling participants to enjoy unique access to this picturesque route.

The Gypsum Run

The sun shone so those on older Fergusons without cabs enjoyed the early spring fresh air.

The event took place on March 27th, and began with the tractors and spectators gathering at the Mountfield Club, where breakfast refreshments were enjoyed by all. The 52-tractor convoy – led by Jonathan in his 180hp Daf-engined Muir-Hill 121 – left Mountfield at about 11am, and followed the sign-posted road route section of the run that took in Brightling village, Batemans (home of Rudyard Kipling between 1902 and 1936) and then continued through Burwash, Stonegate and Etchingham villages.

The run attracted a good spread of tractors from different eras. This MF 6180 was one of the newest machines taking part.

The tractors continued via Robertsbridge, then joined the off-road section. Reaching the overland conveyor involved negotiating a sometimes steep track through woods, then crossing an elderly and narrow bridge over a stream. There was a 4.8-ton weight limit on the bridge (together with a 2.4m width restriction) so, sadly, the modern tractors taking part were too big and heavy for this stage, and had to take the road route back to Mountfield and the BBQ that awaited all finishers at the club.

The small yellow sticker on the front of this MF 135 was added by the organisers, to indicate to marshals that the tractor was suitable to cross the narrow bridge in the woods, at the start of the off-road section.

“The overland conveyor is a bit special,” Jonathan added. “Lots of people have never seen it, so to be able to follow it so closely for a few miles was a real treat, and we’re very grateful to British Gypsum for that opportunity. The whole route was 27 miles long and that seemed to be just about right for everyone. Having said that, I think we’ll probably include a stop half way around next year, just to give everyone a chance to re-group, stretch their lags and maybe have a coffee.

Dave Akehurst slows his smart MF 35, as he joins the ‘tractor jam’ in Burwash village.

“I was really pleased with the turnout, especially given that it was Mother’s Day. All the pre-event promotion was done via social media and word of mouth, and it was great that we managed to attract such a good spread of tractor makes and ages. As an added bonus, the run raised £550 (tractor drivers donated £5 to take part, and passengers gave £2 to ride in an assortment of trailers), which was more or less double what I’d been expecting.”

Lucy Wiggins and her grey Fergie leads Richard Head’s MF 590 on the off-road section, beside the British Gypsum overland conveyor.

• Jonathan Playfoot and Trevor Charman also help organise the popular Rural Pastimes Show – a working event – which, this year will be taking place on August 13-14th at a new venue (Monkings Farm, E Sussex TN31 6JG). You can find out more at: ruralpasttimes.co.uk

This report is from the latest issue of Classic Massey & Ferguson Enthusiast magazine, and you can get a brilliant, money-saving subscription simply by clicking HERE

 

 

 

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