The 19th Earls Barton Rally & Country Fayre at least had some decent periods of reasonable weather in 2016 but still suffered a bit from the weather, a shame after what has been a long hot summer. The layout pretty much remained the same as last year with the troublesome pipeline being kept clear across the showground without too much trouble. Entries were down in some sections, particularly commercials, military and stationary engines and Hyman's vintage fair was also absent, all probably due to the Great Dorset Steam Fair being one week earlier than normal culminating on the Bank Holiday Weekend so they didn't lose to families not visiting when children would be back at school by their normal week-end.
The lack of commercials was ironic given that the stationary engine lines appeared to have been nipped up for space as several with longer caravans didn't have room to put their engines out front. With 2m or 6 foot needed from fence to engine and every sensible engine exhibitor wanting the same between engine and any outside seating area, there was insufficient depth for many. The stand-in steward went for a relaxing long weekend stay and ended up taking a lot of flak for something outside his control. The bygone & model awning display lines also seemed to be c**ked up. It would appear several of the very early arrivals wanted their cars in-between their caravans instead of behind them where there should have been an access road.
This then led on to there not being sufficient display length available so a line that should have faced the miniature steam then had their backs to a public walkway and another line was set-up on the access road itself facing across a roadway that ended at the side of a trade stand, a road to no-where. This also meant that sidewalls of caravans were only 8 foot apart which is not good or really safe. If the lines were started so that the next arrival reversed up to the last instead of having to pull his van up to the next by hand or motor mover the whole set-up would be a lot better, and the lines would mirror the trade stands. Taking of trade, I think this was one of the few rallies this year where numbers had increased, and I think there were more crafts and less models in the marquee this year as well.
The missus increased her collection of miniature canal ware, and last year's prediction of miniature canal boats has come true with a basic narrowboat and a more detailed working boat being purchased over the weekend. Saturday's auction was also hit by rain during the afternoon, and earlier I was pretty p*ssed off that one particularly heavy lot I'd struggled to fit in the caravan was sold for a nominal £1 within seconds by the auctioneer before any other interested parties even had a chance to bid. Nothing really grabbed my interest and the one lot I was interested in made stupid money, so like last year, off to the rally field to get some photos early on. There was a small separate horticultural section away from the main tractors this year which included a couple of Gunsmiths and another Martin Markham Colt tractor owned close to us in West Norfolk.
A relatively small section of motorcycles was supported by a few bubble-cars including one which the owner is happy to let both children and grown-ups sit in for a photo, well done that man. The cars chopped and changed all three days but Sunday was perhaps the smallest, which would be surprising if it were not for the forecast of heavy rain which finally appeared and soaked everything throughout Sunday evening. Having gone out to the awning several times to push an excess of water off a sagging roof, I learnt that a couple of large soring-clamps placed on the rafters pointing upwards added just enough height to keep it clear of rainwater. We had made it up to the Countryside area earlier in the day which was busy but not quite as full as previous years with no Pet's Corner or gypsy caravan.
The Bernese Carters had made an enclave in their usual corners which managed to set themselves apart and did not encourage visitors but the model boat club seemed to have more boats on the lake with a couple of chicanes to navigate as well as their customary lighthouse. They also seemed to have a very fast MTB-style boat which had some serious speed to it plus a fire-boat which would come in close to the edge and spray you with water, catching out the unawares, but of course the children loved it. The beer tent lacked Dr Busker due to his Dorset commitments, but then, you can have too much of a good thing.
It seemed people couldn't get enough of the mini beer festival with an A-Z of real ales featuring 26 different brews from a variety of local micro-breweries together with a selection of "real" ciders. All-but-one of the beers were sold out by early Monday afternoon. All-in-all, not a bad little rally, but the auction build-up on Friday and the selling off on Saturday do take several key people and helpers away from the show those two days, and it sort of shows a little in one or two places. The show has lost a number of helpers and committee members over the last few years and they could probably use some new experienced sensible volunteers to steward over the weekend just to make the difference. No dates for 2017 were published in the programme and their basic website only carries minimal information.