‘The World’s Leading and Largest Heritage event, showcasing Great Britain’s Rich Industrial, Agricultural and Leisure History’
You can hear it and you can smell it before you see it. The Great Dorset Steam is like a big town that appears out of nowhere; covering the empty chalkland slopes of the Tarrant Valley with vibrant colours, smokey smells, constant movement and the toot of the odd engine. During the night, bright lights sparkle as the toots continue in the company of music and cheer.
Spanning over half a century, the Steam Fair has attracted millions of visitors from all over the world. It celebrates a declining culture and therefore has become unique in its own right. The focus of the fair is on the heavy haulage area. Giant steam engines show off their prowess and work as a team carrying gigantic trains and fallen trees around their playground. Vintage cars, motorcycles, caravans and trucks are all on show, some still being used as they should. Sheep have their haircut during an on-stage appearance, handsome Shire horses plough the fields, countryside crafts fill tents and the food arena emits smells that tempt you down to its corner. Birds of prey soar in the sky while woodmen throw their axes in the air. Monster trucks crush cars, motor bikes spin in the clouds and World War one soldiers guard explorable trenches.
The largest traveling ferris wheel in Europe borders the fairground, scattered with roller-coasters, dodgems and some more, terrifyingly high-flying elements. The Yetties, The Wurzels and Dr Busker have all graced the stages, alongside tribute acts and local bands, and, with the constant flow of ale and cider, the dancing feet are hard to stop. Lines of trade stalls sit alongside bouncy castles and beer tents, with the odd miniature steam engine passing by. Together, it creates a huge range of entertainment for all the ages; the site filled with an atmosphere of appreciation of our rural culture.
The Great Dorset Steam Fair was founded by Michael Oliver in 1969, who passed away in 2009. It is now managed by his son, Martin Oliver, and remains very much a family affair. The fair has a solid place in many people’s hearts, a place where their interests align, meeting but once a year. Visitors often compete over how many years they have been attending and to miss one, to most, would be soul destroying. Therefore, for it to return after two years absence, 2022 is sure to be a good year.
The site sits in Cranborne Chase, a landscape rich with ancient, medieval and modern history. These include the mysterious and gigantic Dorset Cursus, scattered Iron Age settlement, Roman Roads, Saxon burials, Medieval abbeys, lost villages, real practice trenches for World War 1 (just on the outside edge of the fair) and a World War 2 airfield at Tarrant Rushton.
The landscape circling the fair is fully explored on the Pimperne, Tarrant Gunville, Tarrant Monkton, Tarrant Keyneston and Farquharson Arms walks.
Please feel free to copy the maps and print for your own use.
Broadcasting from the 20th – 29th August
Thursday 25th August – Monday 29th August