The 2017 Little Casterton Working Weekend was, it seems, the last of the genre to be held at Little Casterton, but don't despair, 2018 will see a move approximately a mile away across the valley to the Knight family's land at Great Casterton. The old guard were very firm that the event is not folding, it is still evolving after 22 years and the year after next 2019 will see a major push to recreate as far as possible the 1919 Lincoln Tractor Trials. In the meantime, the 2017 weekend saw the passing of one of its exhibitors, David Band, who's tractor remained on site until after the event finished, RIP.
The forecast was not very encouraging but the weather played ball for most of the weekend, with some sharp showers later Saturday afternoon but no rain up to 3 o'clock on Sunday. However, the ground was quite moist and a little sloppy in places, although to be fair it was drying up all the time. Except for the wood sawing demos, the layout appeared to be pretty much the same as last year. The most impressive piece of kit was the late 1800s Sagar of Halifax horizontal saw, mounted onto a large trailer chassis, which made steady but impressive work of sawing along the length of quite substantial tree trunks, powered by the Ransomes portable engine. Along the pedestrian walkway, the other big working compound saw a pair of traction engines at work, one powering the Ransomes threshing drum & elevator, the other a baler.
A pre-cut supply of sheaves ensured this demo went ahead, just as well, as the modern short-length crop left standing elsewhere on the field might not have been suitable. In some places on the headlands, it was hard to see where the massive old Holt combine had been because they couldn't set the cutter too low for fear of snagging the belts. I don't think any proper combining was done on Saturday as the crop was just too damp, but after a bit of sun on Sunday morning, the big Holt got stuck in and was eventually followed by the pair of Allis Chalmers Alcrop 60 trailed machines, one towed by an Allis crawler, the other by a similar-coloured Cletrac.
There was also a McCormick Deering binder at work, pulled by a John Deere row-crop style tractor. Further up the field two matched pairs of ploughing engines were working, the first pair with a 6-furrow plough with a swing-over roll that followed the plough up and down, and the second pair following on behind with a cultivator. Just beyond this, but well out of sight from the marquee end of the field, an area of straw had been left behind for the balers to demonstrate. There was a small baler or buncher behind an Allis Chalmers model B but the straw had been piled too thick for this machine and had to be separated by the side rake for it to have any chance of working. However, the Bamford baler powered by an unusual twin-cylinder Enfield stationary engine was doing quite well.
Allis Chalmers seemed to be a bit of a theme this year, as unusually given our location, there were very few Caterpillars on the field but a plethora of Allis crawlers, with several working mole drainers and multi-furrow ploughs. No wonder the field is well-draining given the annual demos of mole-drainers! Back down to the general cultivating area, many the veteran tractors were in action throughout the day with the odd one or two having the odd problem to contend with. Both the Parrott and the Alldays both needed attention on Sunday. The two big prairie tractors moved around the site from time to time.
It would have been good to get a picture of the three Fordson E27N derivatives all together in one place but I only managed two out of three at any one time. The 4-wheeler was joined by a half-track and there was also a full crawler version in attendance. There was also a pale yellow Saunderson tractor which I can't recall seeing before, and the Weeks Dungay I saw at Earls Barton was also somewhere on the field but escaped me. There was a couple of absentees from the programme on the stationary engine line-up, and this year another very rare engine, a blacksmith-made steam engine converted to run on gas and powering a generator, how about that for multi-fuel? As usual there were some very nice medium to large size engines on show.
The 20-49 Motor Club turn-out was very presentable, given the forecast, they seem a fairly hardy bunch not put off by a bit of stubble in wet weather. They could have done with a bit more space but several of the low-loaders had claimed the headland for parking so they had to fit in where they could. The Dennis "Pig" fire engine presented to a director of its former owners at Immingham as a retirement gift was lovingly restored, but was typical, offering no cover for any of the crew in inclement weather.
The tea tent staff did both the public and exhibitors proud and didn't stint on their portions of pork rolls. There seemed to be a reasonable amount of seating available this year with the old chapel chairs being pressed into service along all sorts of others. The book stall didn't have anything to tempt me, however. The Battle of Britain Flight managed a flypast both days and all in all, the show itself rose to the challenges of the weather and won. Next year's dates are below, but note, will be in a different location.