Diurnal and nocturnal Dorset Steam Fair

I thought I would share with you some of the photographs of the Great Dorset Steam Fair 2011 which we took during our visit on the Wednesday and Thursday.  The weather was hot and the sunshine gave good light for pictures, the early evening too was a great time for seeing the steamers but the twilight hours and after dark is when the whole fair comes alive.

Steamers at twilight

Evening steaming around the Tarrant Hinton arena.

Twilight steamers

Sunset frames the smoke of Steam engines in Dorset.

A replica 1st W.W. steam driven lorry.

Steam driven truck done as a First World War army truck - fantastic presentation.

Steaming in tandem at Dorset

This is what the Great Dorset Steam Fair is all about....dozens of them.

Steam driven crane at Dorset

Apparently the only bits that existed of this old engine was the stack and some other bits of the cab area. I thought this was the outstanding engine but then, I always liked cranes !

Triple decker - steamers with a heavy load

This was, or I thought so anyway, the most impressive display - three steamers hauling a massive transformer up and down the slope.

The lights are steam driven.

Nocturnal illumination courtesy of steam - it's what it's all about.

Lights from steam

The real feel of a fairground courtesy of a Fowler engine.

The night skyline at Tarrant Hinton

Night-time is Showtime at the Great Dorset Steam Fair.

The mechanisation of agriculture began of course with the horse and horse-power, in its raw form, was also well represented.  On the second morning we sat for a couple of hours and watched…

Horse and cart - the epitomy of farming in the early years

Wagon and Horses, the sight, the sound, the rattles and clanks, it is living history at the Great Dorset.

The restoration of the carts and wagons was quite remarkable.  Whilst the horses and their immaculate turnout was the main focus of attention for my companion and most of the audience, I was glued to each and every wooden wheeled wain as it trundled by.  I’ve mentioned the size of these things, that of course is a factor of the diameter of the wheel which in turn is partly influenced by the weight the wagon is expected to carry.  There is a long history of experience in the relationship between box and chassis and the required size of wheel, I am not qualified to offer any insight but ‘I know a man who does !’

" Wheel cart at the Great Dorset Steam Fair

The 2 wheel 'tumbril' or 'Scotch cart' was the common workhorse of all farms being used for hauling to and from the fields and all kinds of movement of crops and stock. My own cart is now in line for a 'make-over' so it too can look like this wonderful example.

The arena display took the audience through the farming year from ploughing and cultivating to the fetching in of the harvest.  The working horses were in a separate area, a slope which was gently being ploughed and cultivated by pairs of draught horses, Shires Rule OK in Dorset.

The sight of these magnificent animals, beautifully turned out in gleaming ‘black harness’ and polished buckles and brasses is a spectacle to behold but is probably a somewhat ‘idealised’ view of the farm horse of old.  I’m sure a pride in turn-out was very present even on the poorest upland farm but surely time and effort would not have been too invested in the polish on view here.  That is in no way to deride the effort of the present day owners and exhibitors of these beasts of burden, not at all, I (and thousands of others) watched in awe as they paraded and ploughed, pulled and posed, marvellous in the sheer nostalgia it generates.

Horse Hoeing Husbandry

Horse Hoeing Husbandry, the plodding ploughman follows the hard pushing horse.

For me it demonstrates just how in harmony the farm labourer and his charge were whilst working in the fields.  It is easy to romanticise the whole working horse bit, the well presented implements, the colourful carts, I  have had long conversations with men who used to do this work for real.  An old Dorset labourer, sat in the corner of the Crown at Alvediston,  said simply, when I asked if he ever attended the Steam Fair, that he had spent his life looking at the arse end of a horse and hoped never to see another……   nostalgia definitely isn’t what it used to be.

A pair of working shires.

These matched Percherons - or were they Ardennes - have that 'hang-dog' look that one sees in old photographs of farming with horses.

One of my favourite of all the  ‘real-enactments’ is the Threshing box in action.  There were three separate displays and all showed the real effort and the very high number of people involved in the process of threshing corn using the power driven drum.  I have seen a number of displays over the years but the ones here stood high in that list.  The noise of the tractor, the dust, the rattle of the ‘walkers’ and the piles of un-threshed and then threshed straw is astounding.

Threshing box with little grey Fergie alongside

This was my favourite - maybe that was because the little grey Fergie which just sets the scene to the early 1950s.

Steam threshing at Dorset

It's all here isn't it, a steamer powering the threshing box and the straw baled with a stationery baler driven (out of sight I'm afraid) a Fordson Major.

In one sense I am not particularly into tractors; now that will have raised a chuckle amongst some who know me, after all, there are at least half a dozen hanging around the place here in various stages of renovation or decomposition.  No, in truth I have them because they are a part of agricultural history and thus I have them.  In the top field at Tarrant Hinton there was such an array of finely restored tractors and working semi-restored tractors as to keep me quiet about my small collection.  Many restorations of older machinery, tractors especially but also older commercial and military vehicles, result in the finished article being far better – especially in the finish of the paint work – than when they originally left the factory.  Some years ago I used to exhibit several military vehicles of 2nd World War origin and at one show, much to everyone’s amazement, a couple of Londoners turned up with their jeeps covered in mud and festooned with the sort of personal gear that was seen in photographs taken in the various wartime campaigns.  That is now fairly common place, in the agricultural field – apart from ploughing competitions where mud is an inevitable addition to working tractors – it is still expected that tractors are exhibited as near to concourse as is possible, bright and shiny and clean with no sign of oil or dents or mud !  Perhaps not really giving a true representation of ‘how it t’were in Granfer’s day’.

The tractor line up at Dorset 2011

So many shining tractors to look at and be envious of, and yes W, it would be the Field Marshall if I had my choice !

Muddy tractors at rest in the Dorset arena

There were some muddy tractors - up in the working area, at rest was my very very best favourite, yep, another Field Marshall, this time with tracks.

Normally you would not expect to see anything ‘unrestored’ at the Steam Fair, certainly you would not expect to see rust covered, un-restored exhibits.  Of all the displays and exhibits at this year’s Great Dorset Steam Fair I have to award my ‘Best in Show’ to a pile of old American rust.  The most remarkable array of old – 1920s / 30s ? – original American pick up trucks and a car, all running and road legal, with some connection with a cider making enterprise (I have no real idea what it was all about), was, in my view star of the show.

American pick-up full of apples

It was something to do with apples...... I know not what.

Americana in Dorset

Americana 'finished' in rust.... if you offered me my pick of anything at the show - this would now be in Wales !

Outback rusty pick-up from stateside

How could you not want this, and it was a runner. Drive it all the way home !

American rust in the form of a rare running pick-up.

How much of a classic is this ? I could have driven it all the way home too...

I had such a good time wandering around the hundreds of acres of the GDSF, I had the best company I could have wished for – someone as nutty and obsessed as myself (and to whom I am indebted for sharing her pictures with me) – and the weather was just superb.  If it turns out to be my last visit it will stay in my memory……  And to show just how weird a place it is and how diverse the exhibits, what about this to finish with, the shovel was servicing a ‘road crew’ who were actually building a stretch of laid roadway using old equipment and steam !

Ruston shovel

A Ruston Bucyrus epitomises the diversity of the Great Dorset Steam Fair.

A look back at a real special event in the summer of Welshwaller;  normal service will resume as soon as possible….

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