Steeple Bumpstead
Agricultural Discussion Society

Established 1929

Newsletter January 1997

I missed the last edition so there is a lot to tell but I will try to be brief. We have had four really excellent meetings this season ; good speakers and good attendance.

October 14th......Michael Alsop (Dowdeswell Ploughs)

A period of good weather meant that most of our members were well up with their land work and we had a very good attendance for our first meeting of the season. Mr. Michael Alsop gave us résumé of the history of Dowdeswell Engineering then talked about their current range of ploughs and how we can get the best out of them.

Dowdeswell are a British success story. In 1969 Roger Dowdeswell was just a Warwickshire farmer who wanted a reversible plough that would fit on the back of a crawler tractor. At the time no such plough existed so he designed and built his own in his farm workshop. This plough took top prize at the Royal Show in 1970 and he started producing ploughs for sale from his workshop. 1975 saw him move production to a factory site as demand for his ploughs grew.

During the last 25 years there has been good and bad times for the agricultural engineering industry. The bad times have been very lean indeed and we have lost many well respected companies. However, Dowdeswell have prospered and have bought the production rights and some factories from these failed companies. Dowdeswell Engineering are now the largest British manufacturer of agricultural implements, producing ploughs, discs, power harrows, furrow presses, and dung spreaders to name only a selection of their products. They also have a forging company producing wearing parts for cultivation machinery. We wish them well for the next 25 years.

November 4th........Doug Stevens (Morley Research Centre)

A very technical evening talking about agrochemicals in general and fungicides in particular. Doug is a mine of independent information and at the end of the evening you felt he could have talked for another couple of hours and he would still be telling us new things.

Once upon a time we could get speakers like this for free, but no longer. I must give a mention to Independent Agriculture who were good enough to help us pay for the evening.

December 2nd........Pat Oakley (Lloyds bank)

Pat is the head agricultural manager at Lloyds bank and he told us how he viewed the future for agriculture. A very different talk to the one given by Michael Murphy last year. Last year everything looked rosy till the end of the century, but a combination of good harvests world-wide and a very strong pound has lead to a collapse in the wheat price of about 25%. Pat told us to be very careful to keep our costs down and not to spend too much money on shiny new machinery and we should survive.

This was a bit of a swan-song for Pat because he has fallen prey to the rationalisation at the Lloyds-TSB group and is taking early retirement. I am sure he will find something useful to do and I hope that he doesn’t end up as a perpetual golfer.

January 6th........P.C.Barry Wright.

Most of us know Barry as a local Bobby who forms his own one-man road block when the Morris men are dancing in the street at Thaxted, but he is also a keen naturalist and photographer. He gave us an excellent slide show of his wildlife pictures, all pin sharp and some absolutely stunning. While showing the slides he talked about his work in the force as “Wildlife Liaison Officer”. This is a post created as a result of the “Wildlife & Countryside Act” and covers things as diverse as badger baiting, egg collecting, damage to rare wild flowers, and the import of endangered species (or remains of them such as rhino horn etc.) into Stansted Airport.

Stephen Graves (Secretary)

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