IT has been a nostalgic week, for John especially. A week of going back to old haunts and spending time on the farm where he grew up and where the desire to have his own farm was implanted.

John’s father was a farm manager. His pride and joy were a herd of Jersey cattle that were milked three times a day and that in one year won the three top national championships.

Alistair, who took over ownership and management of this farm, has remained close to John. From knowing him as originally one of the farm workers employed by his father, to now acknowledging him as a friend and fellow land owner.

Over the years since John built up his own farm, they have stayed close and now visits to each other’s farm are a regular occurrence. Mainly as social visits, but also to consult John and benefit from his knowledge of working conditions on the land.

This year, because of John’s knee operation, his shooting invitations have been curtailed. So instead of a day’s shooting on the farm where he was brought up, we had a day reminiscing and a visit not only to old haunts, but a rummage round the sheds and yards where he spent many days labouring.

And there, tucked away in a corner, well past her best and in sad need of some restoration work was the little grey Ferguson tractor that he first used to drive and work on all those years ago. It brought a tear to my eye to see that meeting of man and machine. Mind you John would be the first to admit that he did not regret the move from driving a tractor in a seat open to all the elements to an air conditioned and enclosed cab with a sprung and comfortable arm chair control position.

Tractors today though have moved on even further. One of the fields we passed had just been ridged, creating a deep continuous mound of soil that the potatoes would be planted in. The straight line of ridges though had not been ploughed with such precision from the expertise of the tractor driver. No that uniformity in direction and spacing between the consecutive sets of ridges was down to satellite navigation. And it is all even hands free in the tractor cab.

Allow your average farm worker to take control of the driving of these machines and you risk your potatoes being left in wheel tracks after the tractor has passed over and not in the ridge of soil they are meant to grow in. Not good at all. Leave it to the machines.