Farmers' special 'Nelson' anniversary

Michael Pollitt, agricultural editor Breckland farmer Edwin Allingham has completed his latest winter barley harvest at the wheel of his vintage combine harvester. What is more, he's celebrating a Nelsonian anniversary - 111 years - marking a combination of his 76 years and the 35-year-old combine.

Michael Pollitt, agricultural editor

Breckland farmer Edwin Allingham has completed his latest winter barley harvest at the wheel of his vintage combine harvester. What is more, he's celebrating a Nelsonian anniversary - 111 years - marking a combination of his 76 years and the 35-year-old combine.

Mr Allingham, who took the tenancy of Colveston Manor Farm, near Mundford, 46 years ago, is the only person allowed to drive his second-hand Laverda combine with a 14ft header.

He does all the running repairs and can still get spares from a dealer at Uttoxeter. "A part ordered the day before will be with me by 8am the following day," said Mr Allingham, who bought the machine from Eric Matthews, of Swaffham, in about 1980. "I still love my farming and I get a lot of pleasure of doing most of the work myself. Why change?"


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Grandson Sam Scott has helped with bringing in the harvest by driving the tractor and trailer.

Mr Allingham shares the farming duties with his wife Wendy, who runs a bed and breakfast business with four rooms at their home. Earlier this year they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with a holiday in Venice.

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Back on the mainly arable farm, Mr Allingham has concentrated on growing winter barley seed for seed merchanting specialists including Tim Hirst, of Grainfarmers at Bressingham. He plans to grow almost exclusively 180 acres of Suzaka for the coming year because it is a variety that seems to suit his light, almost blowing sand land.

He also grows about 50 acres of sugar beet but has reduced the acreage quite a lot over the years. There are potatoes on the farm, too, plus 150 acres of grazing.

Now his trusty machine will be going back in the barn after a better harvest than last year, but Mr Allingham has no intention of retiring the combine, which must be one of the oldest machines in regular use in the county. As he tells B&B guests, when his father bought a Massey 21 combine with 12ft header for £1,200, it cost then the equivalent of 60 tonnes of grain at £20 per ton. "How many tonnes of grain would you need to buy a modern combine? It must be several thousand," he said.

His family originates in Hertfordshire and started on the land in the 1920s when his father and brother got together. They ran a butchers' shop and a farm in a village between Hitchin and Luton. Then his father started buying cattle for Alec Fisher at Smithfield Market. "He used to come down to Norwich market on a Saturday buying fat cattle in the winter and did a bit of business with a farmer called Edwin de Grey Seaman.

"He went back to his farm one day and found that he had not only a lot of sheep and cattle but he'd got three daughters, and so married one.

"I'm sort of half-bred Norfolk. I've been here since 1953, but I think I'm accepted now!"

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