Last Sunday, NAH and I braved the rain to go to the Heddington & Stockley Steam Rally and Country Fair. It was a welcome return as it's been cancelled the past couple of years. It's a real local event - held in some fields behind the most idyllic thatched country pub. I was hoping to report on the lawn mower racing as a possible new feature for a Top Gear style revamped Gardeners' World, but sadly they weren't doing it this year. They did have tractor pulling though - souped up tractors pulling an ever increasing resistance the further the tractor goes. The commentator described the course as a 'tractor breaker' owing to the rain. It has a real following in the farming community as evidenced by the audience. It's a bit like Formula One with mud.
NAH always gets a bit misty eyed when looking at a steam lorry like the one in the collage as his grandad had a similar vehicle in Poole. Other engines included ploughing and threshing engines and a demonstration timber sawing area. Unfortunately the weather meant they couldn't do their parade in the show ring as there was a bit of Glastonbury style mud around! The weather cleared for the falconry display by Hawksdrift and I had the pleasure of flying a magnificent Harris Hawk round the ring. New events this year were medieval jousting from The Knights of the Damned and the Over the Top motorcycle display team - the latter having 3 generations of stuntmen including 4 year old Billy Duke.
NAH and I have a running joke with the stationary engine displays. These emit alarming 'pht!' sounds from time to time, so we play a game of trying to surprise each other by imitating them. They're always set to one side of the field, in a neat row with their owners sitting behind them in front of a camper van or tent, usually with a few beers to hand. Some owners try and show what the engines were used for and run a set of lights or a water pump off them. If it's the latter the water is often a flourescent green and runs into a vat of some sort complete with rubber ducks.
The rally also has a number of vehicle classes such as classic cars, military vehicles, tractors and motorcycles. At some point during the day these will parade into the ring accompanied by a commentary from someone who knows each vehicle inside out. Heddington always has a heavy horse display as a variation and the horses were particularly well turned out this year.
In spite of the rain we had a great time. Attendance on Sunday was poor, so I hope there were sufficient people there on Saturday to ensure the event runs next year as it's one of our favourites.