National Vintage Tractor Road Run, 2024

Posted by Chris Graham on 7th May 2024

Peter Love reports on the 2024 National Vintage Tractor Road Run, which took place in rural East Sussex on March 31st.

Photography: Peter Love

National Vintage Tractor Road Run

National Vintage Tractor Road Run: There were at least seven lady drivers on the run. Here we see Mrs Fuller from Surrey with her 1971 John Deere 2020.

Some 260 tractors had entered but by the time the event got going, it was nearly 300, with entrants coming from as far afield as Cornwall and Scotland, some 572 miles in some cases.

During the Saturday evening event staff from the 2024 chosen charity, Chailey Heritage Foundation and its Patchwork Farm gave us an insight into their work. The Foundation is one of the leading centres in the UK for young people with complex neurodisabilities who mostly have cerebral palsy. Many have visual impairment and dual-sensory impairments and very few communicate verbally.

National Vintage Tractor Road Run

It’s 7.30am on Easter Sunday as the tractors get ready for the day ahead at Plumpton College.

The charity was started in 1903 by Grace Kimmins as ‘The Heritage Craft Schools and Hospitals for Crippled Children.’ Grace was passionate about helping children with disabilities. She took over a derelict former parish workhouse in rural East Sussex and turned it into what became the first purpose-built school for children with disabilities in this country.

National Vintage Tractor Road Run

Time has flown since 1985 when Robert Coles and Ashley Godsall came together and the first Easter Sunday National took place in 1987. We see Ashley being interviewed by Bernard Pike.

Run leader Cameron Kemp lined up with his 1961 Nuffield Universal 3 UPN51 with Winsam cab. There was to be a tremendous seven mile section off-road across the top of the South Downs, circling the historic town of Lewes, its castle and more.

Some were anxious to get away and as the flag came down at 10am one person drove into the tractor in front, owing to a sticking clutch. However, they turned right onto the B2116 and within a mile they were off road climbing into the South Downs, passed Streathill Farm and climbing as high as you can go as the dark clouds turned to sunshine.

National Vintage Tractor Road Run

All ready to go is the Kemp family who led the drivers around the route.

Some of the original route could not be undertaken as the ground was just too wet, so the tractors had to come down off the Downs spectacularly, on to a flint road covered in mud. It turned out to be like glass and some of the tractors slid down the road with one jack knifing along the way, you certainly needed low gear all the way. However, all was well and no damage done, the rest of the tractors came gingerly down this area before heading towards the Robinson’s Northease Farm, Rodmell where the halfway halt was staged in the Lower Ouse Valley.

National Vintage Tractor Road Run

Waterloo signalmen in his working life Nathan Tompsett with his 1956 Fordson E1A Diesel Major. He was one of the marshals on the event as he passes St Michael’s Church at Plumpton.

One of the two Zetor’s on the run was not firing on all cylinders and was belching lots of black smoke, but it made it to the finish. As for David Griffiths David Brown Cropmaster, well it nearly gave up as it headed back up in the hills, but with a change of gears and a break near the top to cool the engine down, it was away again.

Tom Beckett with the ex Roland Burgess 1975 John Deere 2130 with Duncan cab that’s just been refitted and seen on the early part of the run.

Peter Williams and his Super Cropmaster also developed a misfire on the hills, put down to a blocked fuel cap breather hole. After removal, all was fine again. A MF 135 was seen broken down at the bottom of the hill here, the driver caught a lift and was finally sorted out at the halfway stop by the rescue team.

Off road they go to climb into the South Downs with Nick Hedley and his 1960 Massey Ferguson 35 4039PX

The views were tremendous as one looked down at where the tractors were parked for the halfway stop just off Whiteway Lane. Here people took a comfort stop and enjoyed refreshments. Some didn’t stop however and carried on down the lane, passing the dark blue 1932 Riley Nine which is used daily, and turned left for the last 14.5 mile section of the run. It took the tractors into Lewes, the main road in the town had been closed off for the tractors with huge crowds enjoying them, including the TV cameras of BBC and ITV which gave good coverage of the event, as did local radio.

Rare 1983 Carraro 118.4 four-wheel drive, originally a genuine Northern Ireland import. It ended up as a rot box before being rebuilt so well across the water. The tractor is now for sale with current owner Andy Boyle from Ledbury.

In the later half, tractors stopped a number of times at the ex LBSC railway level crossing. A short distance further on, they turned right and were now on the home run towards Plumpton College for the last three miles, with a good crowd watching all the way. It had certainly been a great day for the chosen charity and for all involved.

Simon Elliott’s 1950 Field Marshall Series 3 Contractor Mk2 worked in Cornwall originally, not many Series 3 Contractors were built, possibly the star on the run.

People were continually asking where is the event going next year? The answer is nowhere at this very moment. However, after further discussions, the hope is that the Prout family will step forward to take it on in 2025. The Welland Valley would be an ideal place for it all to happen, they have the facilities of course. Over to you lads, let’s keep this event going; it’s become an amazing British institution.

Pat Gandy travelled from Shifnal to Plumpton and back, some 700 miles in seven days, in aid of Lingen Davies Cancer Trust & Newport Gnosall District Lions Prostate testing.

This feature comes from the latest issue of Old Glory, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE


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