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UPDATE: Paul Gunther’s farm machinery fleet fetches £1.5m at ‘astonishing’ Norfolk auction

PUBLISHED: 14:56 08 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:20 09 February 2018

Auctioneer Simon Evans at work at Felthorpe during the sale of farm machinery following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Auctioneer Simon Evans at work at Felthorpe during the sale of farm machinery following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2018

A major collection of farm machinery fetched a total of £1.5m from an “astonishing” turnout of bidders as a well-known Norfolk contractor put his entire vehicle fleet under the hammer.

Retiring farm contractor Paul Gunther with his Massey MF40 tractor at the auction of his machinery fleet in Felthorpe. Picture: Chris Hill Retiring farm contractor Paul Gunther with his Massey MF40 tractor at the auction of his machinery fleet in Felthorpe. Picture: Chris Hill

More than 600 people gathered at Fir Covert Farm in Felthorpe, outside Norwich, where Paul Gunther was selling his vehicles and equipment following his decision to retire at the end of November after a 52-year career.

Highlights among the 500 sale lots were a Claas 970 Forager which sold for £98,500, while a series of Massey Ferguson tractors made up to £71,000 each and some Bunning Lowlander muck spreaders fetched up to £36,500.

Auctioneers said the “hugely successful” sale was one of the biggest of its kind in Norfolk for many years, with bids being received from as far afield as Spain, Poland and Holland.

Auctioneer Simon Evans from Irelands, who conducted the sale, said: “There was spirited bidding, which was reflected in the prices achieved. The larger items exceeded our expectations, with more specialist items achieving prices broadly in line with what we expected.”

Farmers looking around some of the farm machinery for sale during the auction at Felthorpe following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Farmers looking around some of the farm machinery for sale during the auction at Felthorpe following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Fellow auctioneer Tom Corfield added: “The auction attracted a mix of farmers and trade buyers, and the sheer number of bidders reflects the importance of the sale, and the respect in which Paul Gunther is held in the farming community.”

READ MORE: Norfolk farmer and contractor Paul Gunther retires after a 52-year career on the land.

Mr Gunther, who joined the muddy procession of buyers and bidders touring the lots on his farm, said he had no regrets about his decision to draw a line under the contracting business, which will allow him to spend more time with his family and his beloved Simmental cattle.

“It is good to see the equipment selling,” he said. “It means you are losing all the pressure of doing the work.

An aerial view of the Paul Gunther Contracting farm machinery auction at Felthorpe. Picture: Rob Howarth An aerial view of the Paul Gunther Contracting farm machinery auction at Felthorpe. Picture: Rob Howarth

“We’ve been working very hard over the last two months to get this far.

“I never dreamed there would be this many people here. It has been astonishing. There are people bidding from Canada and Poland, and there are lots of Irish people here.

“I think there will be a few people using this equipment to do the work I used to do before. I know there are at least two members of my old staff hoping to buy things and start their own businesses through it, which is a nice thought.”

Unlike his cattle, Mr Massey said he had little sentimental attachment to the machinery being auctioned – except a treasured Massey MF40 tractor, which he had owned for 20 years.

Auctioneer Simon Evans at work at Felthorpe during the sale of farm machinery following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Auctioneer Simon Evans at work at Felthorpe during the sale of farm machinery following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“I have always had my little MF40 tractors, so I’m sorry to see that go,” he said. “But for most of these machines I had someone else to drive them – I don’t even know how to drive most of them.”

Paul Gunther Contracting was founded in 1965 and, after starting his business by spreading muck for pig farmers, Mr Gunther branched out into silage and maize harvesting.

The company spent 40 years mucking out turkey sheds across Norfolk and Suffolk for Bernard Matthews, marketing the litter to farmers. When a muck-spreading service was introduced for those farms, it prompted a request for a more refined prototype muck-spreader to be designed by Norfolk manufacturer GT Bunning, who eventually built six Highlander machines for Mr Gunther, which many years later were upgraded to eight Bunning Lowlanders.

Mr Gunther also worked on the landscaping of many of Norfolk’s golf courses, including at Fakenham, Barnham Broom, Wensum Valley, Costessey, Weston Park and Dunston Hall.

A farmer looking around some of the farm machinery for sale during the auction at Felthorpe following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY A farmer looking around some of the farm machinery for sale during the auction at Felthorpe following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

He announced his retirement and the closure of the contracting business last year, but the family shop, PLG Farm Supplies in Felthorpe, will continue to be run by his daughter and son-in-law, Lizzie and Sean Robertson.

SALE HIGHLIGHTS:

• Claas 970 Forager (2013): £98,500

• Massey Ferguson Tractors: 7726 (2017) £71,000; 7626 (2014) up to £43,500; 7624 (2012) up to £30,000; 6499 (2008 – 2010) up to £24,500.

Auctioneer Simon Evans at work at Felthorpe during the sale of farm machinery following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Auctioneer Simon Evans at work at Felthorpe during the sale of farm machinery following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

• JCB 434/S Loading Shovels (2003 - 2011) up to £41,000.

• JCB 541-70 Telehandler (2012) £27,000.

• Giant V6004T Pivot Loaders (2013) up to £18,000.

• Kemper 390 Plus Maize header up to £39,000.

Farmers looking around some of the farm machinery for sale during the auction at Felthorpe following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Farmers looking around some of the farm machinery for sale during the auction at Felthorpe following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

• Claas 610 Direct Disc Cutter up to £28,000.

• JCB JS130 Excavator (2010) £21,000.

• Bunning Lowlander 150 HD Muck Spreaders (2012 – 2013) up to £36,500.

• Bailey TB18 General Purpose Trailers (2012 – 2016) up to £18,000.

Auctioneer Simon Evans at work at Felthorpe during the sale of farm machinery following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Auctioneer Simon Evans at work at Felthorpe during the sale of farm machinery following the retirement of contractor Paul Gunther. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

• Kuhn Maxima 2RT Maize Drill (2013) £17,600.

• Aitchison Grass Drill £7,200.

• Lely Welger RP445 Bailer £10,500.

Retiring farm contractor Paul Gunther with his Massey MF40 tractor at the auction of his machinery fleet in Felthorpe. Picture: Chris Hill Retiring farm contractor Paul Gunther with his Massey MF40 tractor at the auction of his machinery fleet in Felthorpe. Picture: Chris Hill

An aerial view of the Paul Gunther Contracting farm machinery auction at Felthorpe. Picture: Rob Howarth An aerial view of the Paul Gunther Contracting farm machinery auction at Felthorpe. Picture: Rob Howarth

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