The Great Dorset Steam Fair 2011

Published September 3, 2011

Yesterday, I went to the Great Dorset Steam Fair with my dad. He’s been before and really liked it. I’ve never been, or if I have my memory has erased it. I must admit, when we were first talking about going, I was sort of expecting it to be a bit like the Gillingham & Shaftesbury Show, which is somewhere my dad and I also visited.

It is nothing like that. There wasn’t a rabbit in sight. In fact, there was not much on the livestock side of things, only some Shire horses doing a bit of ploughing, and a fake cow showing off some old dairy equipment. Other than that, the main focus was transportation, and of course, specifically steam powered items.

Steam fair engines

I was expecting it to be quite noisy. Whenever you see the steam engines in carnivals and suchlike, they are always poop-pooping their steam horns and making all kinds of clickety-clanking sounds. It was relatively quiet, with just a few puffs of noise every now and then.

We were there for about seven hours, and it was freakishly hot. I was reluctantly wearing a hat (only other hat I wear is a baseball cap for running), but I’m so glad I had it. We drank lots of rather expensive water, and enjoyed a bacon roll from one of the many mobile catering vans they had. One of my few complaints is the sheer number of burger vans, as they kept on cropping up in my photos. Thankfully not all of them, though.

Steam fair coal

I was also surprised at how often we were shooed out of the way. There was always something trying to move through the crowds, be it machinery heading to one of the arenas, or the coal van, or tankers supplying water to the many steam-powered vehicles. I was sure they were trying to kill us.

Having said that, it was worth it to see the vast array of machinery on display. At one point, they were putting down an actual tarmac road - just to show the process from breaking up the bricks to rolling them flat, to putting layers on top. I dread to think what the farmer will say when he visits the empty site on Monday and finds an extra road in the middle of his field.

Overall, I had a really good time. We bought a programme, which is lucky because we used that map about thirty times throughout the day. It’s a big old site you have to try and navigate and we didn’t want to miss anything. Also, the programme came with a bonus toy display car thing, although I have no idea what kind of car I ended up with. But yes, it was tricky finding our way around. We think we covered most of it, although there was no real timetable for the action in the arenas so we missed some of the displays. I did learn about tractor pulling though.

Steam fair tractors

I had never heard of it before, even though it is a fully recognised motorsport and everything. We watched tractor after tractor be hooked up to a big ol’ weight at the back and then try their best to pull it the full distance of the course. It was oddly addictive. I found I couldn’t tell which would do well and which wouldn’t, and predicting the outcome was great fun. There were only a couple of drivers who managed to get their tractors to tip up so much it looked like they’d fall backwards. Thankfully they didn’t, but it certainly added an element of danger to the event that I wouldn’t have anticipated previously.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day out, although I returned home absolutely exhausted and with a tiny bit of sunburn. There’s nothing like the recovery from a big day out to make you realise that you’re not getting any younger! I’d highly recommend it to all. If steam powered stuff isn’t your thing, there were also military displays, a crafts tent, a big food tent with free cheese samples, plus an enormous fairground stacked full of traditional and new rides and cuddly toy games that could keep you occupied for weeks.

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