We missed Holbeach Town & Country Fayre in 2016 due to a landmark family birthday party, but was pleased to attend again in 2017. The layout appeared to be pretty much the same as two years ago, albeit with a larger main ring and longer marquee. Pretty much everything was in the same place which always help when you arrive if the stewards are otherwise engaged, so we were able to site ourselves without any hassle. There have been some pretty major changes behind the scenes on the committee but to the casual observer, it was business as usual.
One development since I last visited was the (re)introduction of trophies sponsored by a variety of local people and companies. I recall Alec Ford (now in quite poor health, we wish him well in his fight against his illness) finding my maroon Ruston PT fit as a winner of the Barry Disdell trophy many years ago and this year, Frank Markham received another trophy sponsored by Mr Disdell for his horticultural display, which was judged by Jamie Thacker, son of the well-respected former steward of that section of the show. Barry had taken over stewardship of the tractor section from the Thorpe family who are no longer involved, and the only change here was the tractors were parked square on to the peg rather than at an angle as admired in previous years.
However, the space between machines and also the spacing of the rows was very generous so no issues in getting photos, unlike some other rallies around and about. Some of the smaller tractors such as the BMB President, Singer Monarch & Garner were presented as part of the horticultural section, and the owner of the Yanmar, having drawn up at the horticultural lines on Sunday morning, was quite surprised to find himself amongst the big boys. Well done to Gavin Bradford for winning the best tractor trophy. Extra room had been allowed for the stationary engines this year with the caravans largely across the back of the site, and day-trippers coming up the side towards the catering and small fairground.
With the Lincs Oil Engine Club and NVTEC members in attendance, some nice engines were to be seen, with several working mills, pumps, generators etc. The steam section had grown a little as well with seven full-size and several scale models in attendance, a good turn-out for this size of event. The commercials although fewer in number than some previous years still throw up some good stuff and the Bedford Enthusiasts' Club were to be congratulated on a diverse display of vehicles with seven different models on their stand on Saturday, namely CA Mk III, CF Mk II, A-type, WL, OL, TK & later TL.
Looking back at 2015, I now realise I have seen the Alum Bay Glass Chevrolet van before its recent visit to the Bluebell gathering, but this time was able to have a better look at. Although quite modern colours, I very much liked the look of the Peter Lind Bedford and Leyland Beaver. Not sure if they were from the same owner, but the two different AEC Mercury tow trucks also hit the right note. Bus & coach attendance was limited to Sunday. The classic car section was another that had changed stewardship since my last visit and as there was a big show on at Bourne on the Sunday, I thought there might be a few attendance issues.
To be fair, a huge proportion of the cars that came on Saturday did not come back Sunday, but they were replaced by an equal number of different vehicles so all was well. Motorbikes also had new mentors but here numbers were reduced a bit from what I remember, but still a reasonable display. My Dad's friend's trike was a big hit with the lady from the model boat club who got a treat of an after-hours ride around the field late on Sunday afternoon. From the shrieks, I would say she enjoyed herself. I must say that the commentator this year was superb. I don't know his name, but have heard his voice before, and I think he hails from the Derbyshire area, but his knowledge of most classes was very good.
Little snippets stick in your mind, such as the origin of the Perkins Engines badge, seen on many tractors and commercials over the years. The square set on its edge as a diamond with the four circles, one at each corner, demonstrates the slogan "A Square Deal All Round". That's probably old hat to many people but new to me and a good piece of trivia to know. A hovercraft was meant to operate out on the edge of the car-park on Sunday, but the chaff left behind from the cutting of the grass only a week before kept jamming up the blades of the motors, so it was not able to operate as intended which was a pity.
The only other area I would criticize still, in my personal opinion, is the layout of the stalls. Hidden behind the three major agricultural machinery trade stands of Downing's, Doubleday's and Burden's, the stall-holders selling goods were arranged in small rows which reminded me of the old Yards of Kings Lynn or Rows of Great Yarmouth, tucked away only to be found by exploring. The Shambles of York also spring to mind. All told, it was good rally but had the misfortune of being held on the hottest weekend of the year so far.
In a field with no natural shade and the marquees not offering much respite from the heat, people did not stay as long as they might otherwise have done and the resulting early finish on Sunday should have meant an early exit. However, the heat and the limpet like hard dry ground meant extracting our awning pegs took absolute ages and I had to leave around half-a-dozen as future archaeology as the heat had made the plastic tops so brittle they just broke off, perhaps we'll recover them next year.