The big change for the 57th Carrington Steam & Heritage Rally was the layout, which seemed to find almost universal approval from all I spoke to over the weekend. To try and freshen things up a little, and also to make things easier for the cars and commercials if the weather turned wet (a rare thing at Carrington, not), the field layout had basically been reversed. This benefited the stationary engines no end as they moved away from their compound with two or three rows of camping to occupy three sides of the far end of the field, where they used to be some years back, all with camping behind the engines. However, this event saw the first double safety fence for the engine lines with a rope fence outside the traditional sheep-netting.
This was apparently a new National Traction Engine Trust authorised requirement, which is frankly taking the mickey when anyone can walk up to a miniature or full size steam engine with spoked flywheels and extremely hot parts which, unless belted up to working machinery, are not fenced off at all. Get your own house in order before picking on us, was the sentiment of many barn engine exhibitors. It also made life slightly more difficult for exhibitors as although the organisers put access gateways at the end of each run of netting, they didn't particularly want to cut their lengths of rope to match, so we still had to duck down under or straddle the rope to get in and out. My next-door neighbour to the left reunited me with an old engine of mine, a Bamford EG1 1 sold him via that well-known internet auction site about 5 years ago. Bamford engines and equipment were the featured engine make this year and there was quite a good selection.
I also basked in the glory of the large 6hp Amanco engine that was parked behind my car all weekend, a deserved cup-winner. Next to that, last year's working exhibit cup-winner, the Bradford-powered well pump, also drew visitors to it, so all in all, despite the extra layer of fencing, quite an enjoyable weekend for the engine section. In front of the engines, and in their usual practice, the tractor sections were split right down the middle of the field with the featured make of Massey Ferguson to the right and all the other makes to the left. Massey Ferguson celebrates several landmarks this year, so good reason to commemorate the make. Lined up across the field in front of the tractor rows were the various tractor clubs, including Starting Handle, NVTEC East Anglia, David Brown Lincs, Blue Force, NVTEC Notts and Allis Chalmers. However, the veteran tractors were tucked away behind the club displays and could perhaps be slightly more prominent another year.
The horticultural section bridged the gap between the tractors and the edge of ring which was in its usual central position with trade stands on either side. The fairground, catering and bar were to the left bordering the camping field, and behind the trade to the right were the children's entertainment tents and motorbike lines. The miniature steam faced the children's entertainment marquee and the autojumble/junk stalls then ran up the edge of the car-park back towards the start of the stationary engines. Part of the full size steam were in their traditional line bordering the edge of the field with the rest running down a couple of avenues towards the Robert H Crawford stand, which offered a little bit of everything from Model T Ford truck, Stanley steam car, Marshall Colonial & Field Marshall tractors, Robey steam lorry, Fowler steam engine and modern lawnmowers and tractors for sale.
The self-propelled steam engines faced the front line of commercials and the portable steamers faced back towards the motorbikes. Dropped in amongst the steam were the odd tractor, vintage or classic car, Landrover etc. just to accentuate how diverse the restoration and preservation movement is. Like the tractors, the cars and commercials were split down the middle keeping each section separate. The commercials did quite well for space, but they would be better if different lengths of vehicles were grouped together to even up the rows, but overall one of the best displays for some time. It was actually a trailer I liked best, that accompanied the Michellotti-cabbed Scammell Handyman, one side liveried for Danish Bacon, the other for Lurpak butter.
The cars were a little tight on space but did have enough room for the main day of Sunday, there being less than half the number on Monday although there were some different vehicles on the second day. The solo vehicles were ably supported by a number of classic caravans, some of which were set amongst the awning displays and bygones which all faced the models and model tent. This year there was a Real Ale Bar within the entertainment marquee as well the Routemaster bar bus outside. The marquee was pretty much full on Sunday night for various sets from Dr Busker who celebrates 30 years in the business this year, although supports acts and artists have come and gone over the decades.
I well remember my first introduction to his particular genre of entertainment over 20 years ago at Wellingborough Preservation Society's event in the park there, when he was a fairly local sensation. His song More Beer, More Beer was a bit of a premonition as the Real Ale Bar went down very well and pretty much sold out. The annual collective auction sale didn't hold a lot of gold for me this year, but the car-boot added half-a-dozen new items to a strand of collecting that has been fairly stale in the last decade, so perhaps that's a sign that for once I've been ahead of the game, in which case I should hopefully be quids-in in years to come, here's hoping. Talking of money, the programme reports 2015 donations amounting to £2840 made to a variety of organisations, and hopefully as the weather was overall better in 2016 than for last year, the level of donations may go up, as this stature of show deserves.