The "Welcome" arch had moved from the visitor entrance of the 44th Haddenham Steam Rally as it formed a centrepiece to a reproduction agricultural trade stand of the local firm of James Graven & sons. Tying in nicely with various Ford & Fordson themes seen at other rallies this year, this stand featured tractors sold new by the firm who were Fordson and later Ford Motor Co main agents, selling both tractors and cars. The stand was situated across a corner plot and looked very good, reminding me of the similar Massey Ferguson Red Giants stand Holbach did some years back. This gathering of Ford tractors allowed most of the other tractors (except for the Ferguson club and Newman restorations) to be gathered together in one area.
I thought there was quite a good mix with several different mounted and trailed implements and trailers. Moving up-field, the previously well-established layout had had a bit of a make-over, with motorbikes moving down-field to face the tractors. However, this shorter display line did mean there had to be a second row facing the other way to accommodate all the exhibitors. These looked onto the back of a short line of classic caravans and then three or four rows of classic cars, which again ranged from pre-war through to the late 1980s. Nothing particularly unusual, apart from the very early maybe even veteran Renault but you had to admire the Heath-Robinson style temporary hood on the Hillman convertible, definitely needed given the heavy showers that were forecast and arrived as expected.
Apart from a few heavy commercials alongside the roadways, the rest of the lorries occupied a couple of rows facing each other where the motorbikes have previously stood. This seemed to work quite well and nice to see the old Patriotic Roadways AEC Mercury out on the road again, no prizes for guessing what south Lincs character may own that AEC! Sunday saw a couple of Bedford OB coaches in attendance, one apparently converted to living accommodation and the other belonging to Dews Coaches, complete with a few passengers wearing period dress for the day.
One of the highlights of the weekend was seeing Abel's Removals through the ages, starting with the horse-drawn van being paraded around by Goodwin's Shires, then on the 1930s Bedford M-type with reconstructed pantechnicon body, culminating in the DAF XF tractor unit which carried the others to the show, all in their trademark colour. Abel's have taken time and care to furnish the older vehicles with a selection of packing crates and rugs etc to give the flavour of old-style removals. I can recall the horse-drawn van being at places like the East of England Show as a kid, so good to see the heritage is still being supported by the firm. There were a few heavy horses about for the whole weekend, and more came on Sunday just for the Heavy Horse Show held on site.
Some of the horses were coupled up to period implements and demonstrated on the working field through the hedge to the north of the site. At the time of visiting there were only a couple of tractors working so the mechanical element was a little disappointing, but the horses never disappoint. No change really in the stationary engine lines, but here's hoping both John & David make full recoveries from their recent health issues over the weekend.
It will be interesting to see how the demise of Barleylands rally last year may affect the choice and numbers of engines on show, but there is place for all sorts of machinery, not just the biggest, best and rarest, as witnessed by those people who stopped to listen to the humble Lister Ds over the weekend. The craft & bygones marquee moved around the corner to be on the road-edge this year. This did open up the area for a line of steamers leading down to the large Wonderland organ with its two attendant large showmen's engines and then onto the Wall of Death and fairground area. There's obviously some history as to why Haddenham has steamers in this area, but like the tractors, you have to search them out to find all the participants.
Trade stands remain fairly constant in number and catering is fairly diverse, albeit located pretty much in just one area at the top of the arena near the bar. Doctor Busker performed his predictable stuff on Saturday night but Friday night saw the Ouse Valley Singles Club comedy skiffle band take to the stage for their first gig at a steam rally. I'm a bit of a fan of their humorous songs, which can be close to the knuckle at times, but the experience was spolit by enough people who seemed determined to talk over the music, so much so it really spolit my enjoyment and I left well before the end as a result.
There was alternative entertainment outside with the stage show and organs throughout the weekend. The weather was not particularly kind and rain early Friday night soon brought out the maintenance crew spreading wood chips over the main roadways to and from the gate, which helped enormously to stop the ground being cut-up. Heavy showers on Saturday were followed by gusty winds on Sunday, but the threat of imminent rain sent the visitors away relatively early and we were able to load up and get home at a reasonable time without getting wet.