Learner Drivers

Last year HBUF took delivery of the tractor that we have been using to support some of the maintenance activities around the site. We share it with Central Swindon North Parish Council. You may have seen it in action mowing the picnic field and the wildflower meadow. It also has other attachments, like the wood chipper and trailer, that allow us to do a variety of other jobs.

Until now, Steve was the only person with the necessary skills and experience to operate it safely. To share the load, Kate and Andy volunteered to get trained up.

At the beginning of March, Kate and Andy spent two days on a training course run by the John Oldacre Rural Innovation Centre. The centre is part of the the Royal Agricultural University and offers a wide range of training in practical and managerial skills for anyone involved in food production and land management.

The “Tractor Driving – Introduction” doesn’t mess about. After a session on health and safety it was straight out and into the cab. And there’s no little baby tractor to practice on, it was straight into the real thing. Quite daunting when the wheels are bigger than you are!

It’s a little bit bigger than our one!
Reversing the trailer on day one!

The two day course was a real eye-opener into how sophisticated (and complicated!) modern day tractors are. The beasts that they learnt on are a LOT bigger than our little one at HBUF, but the skills and techniques still apply.

After learning how to drive the tractor in the yard it was on to attaching implements like the trailer and mower. Ironically the bigger tractors make that easier, with a lot more adjustment and tweaking possible from the cab than is available with our little one. Not surprising, given how hard it is to make manual adjustments to the bigger bits of kit.

And who would have guessed that they’d be reversing with the trailer on the first day?

Of particular importance for us is the safety aspect in all of this. Learning how to operate the tractor and associated equipment safely for both our volunteers and members of the public is essential at HBUF. One thing that sets us apart from a farmer in their field is the number of passers-by we need to look out for.

Kate and Andy pose beside a tractor out in the field.
Kate and Andy, having mastered the tractor

There was an unintentional age test as part of the course, with a bit of word association. The instructors over the two days were Steve and Austin. Ring any bells?

Depending on your age that might bring to mind a much loved TV show from your childhood or, for younger folk, a star of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). We’ll let you decide who it reminded our pair of.

Learner Drivers