GDSF - 2018

50th Anniversary Show

WW1 Site - 25.09.18

In the early hours of Saturday morning at the WW1 site of GDSF, a special photo shoot was arranged for the press.  This was to re-stage a photograph taken at the end of the war 1918.

This was achieved thanks to the WW1 volunteers and the two WW1 tanks at the site.


The Unsung Heroes behind the scenes of GDSF


The unsung heroes behind the scenes, the Coal Men and Water Carriers.  Each morning, in the early hours, the Coal Men arrive.  The unsung heroes behind the scenes, these guys, who are from all over the country, with 7 lorries arrive each day, loaded with Welsh steam coal and distribute it to the engines all over the site.  

They are always happy and always have a 'good morning' for you, no matter how early or late in the day.  I took the opportunity to take a photograph and they were only to pleased to take a minute or two out for a group photograph.

They will have delivered around 400 tonnes of coal by the time the show ends.  All this coal is hand carried around to each engine and the lorries have to negotiate the roads etc around the site.

The army may march on its stomach but the steam engines definately march on their coal and water!!

The water bowsers are also out and about all day with the thousands of gallons of water needed to generate the steam.


I shall be adding these guys to my 'Characters of Dorset' page, because they really are!

Update - 23.08.18

This is Les Searle taking up a new mode of transport this year after the Creche have taken over engine driving!  Yes, the Créche were observing, waiting for the big fall!

A few more goes Les and I will introduce you to Ken Fox and his Wall of Death!

Despite breaking an ankle in Cornwall earlier this year, engine owner John White is not going to be left out of the mobility gang.  Love the chimney the boys have fitted John!


A walk up to the 'Watford Gap' saw Dee and Della showing the Creche' how to pull a load!  I also had an opportunity of getting a photograph of the Créche taking time out.  Please note the Guardians!


Another walk around and I came across The Lion and also Wattie Pollock driving the threshing machine.  Back in the 'playpen' is Marshall Traction engine 'Jess', not stuck at all!

Update - 22.08.18


A stroll round the site today before it gets too busy!  Engines being cleaned and finding their space in the line up.


The Vincent Engineering team taking it easy before the show starts on Thursday.


As always, I like to meet four legged friends and they are never far away, either guarding their engine or taking it easy in a chair!


Please note the Horsham Traction Company 'Creche' washing and tidying up, supervised by of course non other than Mr Langley!  Could the 'elders' be on their way back!


The Ladies of Steam who describe themselves as 'hard work and enjoyment running and working on engines we love', are celebrating Ladies of Steam to mark 50 years of the Great Dorset Steam Fair and 100 years of votes for women!  Raising awareness and promoting women in the industry! This is an inspirational group of international Ladies and some beautiful engines.


We also have Earl Kitchener and Dragon being prepared for opening day.  A lovely line up of engines fom New Zealand.  Jason Howard preparing his roller and the Newton team preparing their engines. 

Also on site is quite a rare Aveling & Porter  LC8 Road Locomotive 5192 "Flame Lily" following a complete restoration.  I understand that the canopy will be fitted at a later date.


A visit to the WW1 site, sees the tank from The Tank Museum used in the convoy, on site and in place and also lorries parked up.  We are just waiting for Guy Martin's replica tank to be put in situ.


A stop off at the Newton's to say hello to my four legged friend 'George', a beauty you must agree!


Mr Saunders the Showman still puts on a good show, note the 50 in lights above the stage!  Gordon is still moving engines around and it looks like the trailer rides have begun!


The evening sees a hen night getting ready to depart, some last minute sign writing to the Pickfords trailer in the half light and the last train has left!

Update - 15.08.18


More deliveries, trackways being laid, marking out being done and a German Shepherd dog taking a moment to pose for a photograph for me!


Update - 14.08.18

At the very first GDSF at Stourpaine Bushes known as a Great Working of Steam Engines in 1969, these two steam plough engines were working as a pair.

This year they are making an appearance at the 50th Steam Fair, having recently been purchased at auction in April 2017.  The engines have spent their entire 100 years as a pair.

John Fowler and Co, Leeds. One pair of BB1 Ploughing Engines. Works Nos 15210 and 15211 "Horsa" and "Hengist". Reg Nos. AD 8990 and AD 8991.  Built 1918.  16 NHP.  Weight approx 18 Tons.  Double Crank Compound cylinders.  Fitted with cast iron plates bearing the inscription "Registered by Gloucester County Council Nos 223 and 224".  This pair of ploughing engines were originally ordered by G.W. Stephens of Dumbleton, Gloucestershire through the Ministry of Munitions.

In September 1918 the order was transferred by the Board of Agriculture to the Winchcombe Steam Plough Company, Greet, near Winchcombe, Glos.  They operated the engines and original tackle for the Gloucester War Agricultural Executive Committee.


In September 1938, the engines were sold to the well known contractors Bomford and Evershed of Salford Priors, Warwickshire and then subsequently in 1957 to Bomford and Carr Ltd of Binton, Warwickshire.
 In 1967 they were sold to Mr Bob Say of Cheddar for preservation.  In his ownership they attended rallies and featured at working demonstrations at the Great Dorset Steam Fair in the 1970s until 1980 when they required boiler work.

In 1998 the Fowlers were purchased by the present owners at the Cheffins Vintage Sale.
After purchase, both engines had fire bars and tubes removed for a full boiler inspection.  They were both considered to be in similar condition and required virtually identical work.  The firebox, tender and smokebox needed replacement, but the boiler barrels were both found to be in good order.  The front tube plates were also sound with only a small amount of wastage on the flange.

While "Hengist" was left totally complete and untouched, No. 15210 "Horsa" was fully renovated between April 1998 and August 1999.  All the boiler work was carried out by Israel Newton to the satisfaction of the boiler inspector Mr John Glaze.

A number of gears were refurbished by B and C Gears.  The rear axle was completely refurbished including drive pins by Bicknells.  All the motion work was fully renovated and meticulously polished taking many hours over many weeks.

Since renovation the engine has been steamed less than a dozen times, appearing only at the Onslow Park Rally in 1999 and 2000, winning best engine in show on both occasions.

Update - 13.08.18


Steam engines, steam lorries, military vehicles and other exhibits arriving on site.


We have the water, Brian Snelgar has brought the lighting wood.  Despite a heavy shower the field engineer has tested the communication towers for 4G.


The food for the Monster Trucks has also arrived!

WW1 Homecoming Parade From Bovington to Great Dorset Steam Fair - 11.08.2018


The celebrations officially started for the 50th anniversary of the Great Dorset Steam Fair, with the WW1 Homecoming Parade through Bere Regis and Blandford.

The convoy comprised of WW1 vehicles and steam engines from the time, accompanied by full crew in period dress.

A convoy of steam engines and military vehicles started out from Bovington Tank Museum en route to the Steam Fair site at Tarrant Hinton, via Bere Regis, Blandford Forum and Pimperne. 

Despite the weather, hundreds of people could be seen waiting for the parade to pass, along the route.  Blandford town streets were packed waiting for the convoy to arrive.

As well as steam, the parade featured a British Mk IV Tank Replica from War Horse, a Holt 75 Gun Tractor, a Howitzer gun, WW1 motor lorries, motorcycle outriders and marching soldiers.

WW1 Homecoming Parade From Bovington to Great Dorset Steam Fair - 11.08.2018


Extract taken from GDSF Facebook page - a date not to be missed & do not forget your tissues!


Come out and show your support for this Homecoming parade to mark 100 years since the end of WW1, which will officially kick off the celebrations for the Great Dorset Steam Fair's 50th anniversary! 
A convoy of First World War vehicles accompanied by a full crew in period dress will be making its way from Bovington Tank Museum to the Great Dorset Steam Fair site via Blandford Town Centre, setting off around 10.30am. 

Hundreds of people came out to support the last parade in 2014 to mark the start of the Centenary, lining the streets along the 20-mile route, waving flags, and cheering. It was a breathtaking sight to behold! 


The photographs show the last parade in 2014.

Update - 07.08.18


If it is toilets you want, there are hundreds now on site.  I have also been informed, that there will be some attendant facilities available during the show.

With the amount of visitors and people on site, this area has always been the subject of comment and the organisers have listened to the feedback and made changes to eliminate any problems.

Extra temporary bunds have been created to hold bag tanks, with water in, to cater for the 500 plus engines, that will need lots of water to generate the steam.

A new temporary railway track has been installed to house one new exhibit.

The festoon street lighting is being erected over the site and at night this is very welcome for those walking back to car parks and camping, caravan areas.


The first of the marquee lorry trailers and ride trailers have arrived.


The whole site will by the end of the week be a massive construction site.

Update - 05.08.18


The GDSF site is now officially handed over to Martin Oliver and his team, to build the Steam Fair.

We must remember that the Steam Fair site is based on two working farms and is only used by the Steam Fair for around 5 weeks of the year, after which it is returned back to working farms.


The family firm of Malcolm Fleet, are on site busy installing the public address system to cover the site and the main arenas.


There are dozens of sheds and massive stocks of picnic tables all being treated and erected.

Update - 01.08.18


I was on site today to record the completion of the hay rick building.  I have spent quite a lot of time with these people, who turned the field of standing corn into the ricks, just how it used to be.


I will be recording the final process during the show.


Also captured was the WW1 site being prepared for the exhibits and volunteers to move in.



Update - 28.07.18


Just a quick visit to site and progress has been made with the harvest.  It is hard to imagine the fields will soon be the Great Dorset Steam Fair and will be filled with exhibits, camping, car parking etc!


World War 1 vehicles are starting to arrive and this area will soon be alive with soldiers and visitors.


Whilst on site, I took the opportunity to photograph the Collingwood Battalion War Memorial, which since 2014 has been listed at Grade II by English Heritage.

Update - 24.07.18
It is amazing how fast the transition takes place, to turn two busy working farms, into the Steam Fair site.  The photographs show Robin Hooper’s Farm, with his Son and Staff, who are now working their way across the site and clearing the harvest.

Update  - 18.07.18


Today I found this young chap who had applied for a job to help out with the harvest!  He obviously got the job and was doing fabulously.


I am sure I have seen him somewhere else before !!!!!! ??????


It is amazing the history that is still repeated here on site, on every day tasks, just as it was many years ago.

We have Austin and his Grandson Joe on the tractor and binder.  Fred Sansford and his son Paul standing the sheaves into stooks to dry.  Martin Olivers's Son Rob was also assisting with the harvest.

I spent longer than anticipated out in the harvest field, while the operations took place.

Having being born on a farm and having done very similar things with my Father during the years, it was like going back in time for me.  I am sure farm workers were a different breed in those days, as they toiled to get in the harvest, with the machinery they had, which at the time was a major break through in technology.

The type of corn grown on the farm is the traditional wheat reed variety, Maris Widgeon.  Maris Widgeon is a heritage variety of wheat that has traditionally been used for thatching in the UK.  This variety was developed in 1964 by the Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridgeshire. The 'Maris' in the name, was derived from Maris Lane, the address of PBI headquarters in Trumpington, Cambridge.  It produces a tall, strong stemmed straw without the use of artificial fertilisers, which makes it popular with thatchers and straw craftsmen.  It is also popular with artisan bread bakers and specialist organic millers.

Crops are cut, traditionally, with a binder, when the nodes are still green and the grain is of a cheesy texture, this ensures that the straw is frozen in its prime, thus preserving it’s strength. The grain moisture content at this point is about 30%. The sheaves are then stood up, ‘stooked’, in the field to slowly dry and condition the straw in its prime condition, and to ripen the grain in the heads. This normally takes 2 – 3 weeks.  The straw should have an average cut length of at least 30 inches.

Whichever method of threshing is employed, it should leave the straw stems only slightly bruised, and not unduly damaged or crushed, avoiding the breaking of stems, with a certain amount of flag (dried leaf) mixed in with the stems.  The straw should not be discoloured to any degree.  It should be strong and supple and able to resist or even defy efforts to break it by twisting a handful continuously.

Long straw thatch is easily recognisable.  It has long lengths of straw visible on the surface and gives the general appearance of having been “poured on” in contrast to the closely cropped look of combed wheat reed and water reed thatch.  Long straw also has exterior hazel rodding at eaves and gables, a feature seldom seen on the reed types.  It is more easily attacked by birds but netting in good order should overcome this completely.   Long straw requires more preparation on the ground before applying.  Many roofs, thatched in long straw, are known to have lasted at least 25 years, (up to 50 years).

In most instances, rethatching in long straw will not involve complete removal of all the old thatch.  It is normal practice to fasten long straw to the existing coat of thatch.  This is a perfectly satisfactory means, and indeed a traditional way, of rethatching.  The existing thatch is stripped back to a sound base; all loose areas and decayed material should be retightened and replaced as necessary.

On site a reaper binder is used to cut the straw which is cut in mid-July then stoked for two weeks to dry, then hauled and stacked.  The sheaves are left in the stack to condition, before the reed comber threshes out the grain and removes the leaf and flag from the stems.  The bundles are tied in the trusser and are then ready for the thatcher to put on a roof.

Here it is used at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, to show how the process has been carried out.  There have been different methods, using different machines, over the years, a selection of which will be working on the site, during the Steam Fair.

Preparation of the Site - 16.07.18


Today was my first day on site and I had the pleasure of meeting Staff & Personnel on site.  I also met with Mr Robin Hooper the Farmer.


I always like to visit the site when preperations are taking place and today the stooks were being prepared for use at the show.

If you have any queries or wish to purchase a photograph, please contact me:


+44 7831237759


If you wish to send a donation to the Alzheimer's Society, you can now click on the link on the Alzheimer's Society page.

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  • Eleanor firmstone (Thursday, January 23 20 09:20 am GMT)

    Hi, do you have any information on the steam roller ru7342. We now own the roller and wondered what year this was taken.
    Thanks Eleanor

  • Sarah Mitchell (Wednesday, September 11 19 10:31 pm BST)

    Hi there is a wonderful picture you took of a dear friend of mine on his journey to the gdsf this year. It is in the western daily press dated 22/08/19 Carl Brown roading the Marshall to gdsf. I cannot locate this picture on any website to purchase and was hoping i could purchase through yourself many thanks Sarah

  • John Baines (Friday, April 05 19 03:45 pm BST)

    Have you any photogaphs of James & Crockerills yard in Durrington? Their MD Peter Barber owned the Burrell Scenic Road loco 'Prince of Wales@ and other engines including Burrell roller 'Daffodil'

  • Zoe Read (Saturday, March 02 19 07:08 pm GMT)

    I see you already have dates for this one but I wondered if you would consider adding Purbeck Rally to your event list?
    9th -11th August
    worgret road, wareham, dorset, BH20 6AB
    Raising funds for Forest Holme Hospice Charity & other local causes.

  • Andrew Gray (Wednesday, February 20 19 07:55 pm GMT)

    Is that Mr Dimmer and the train made at Durrington Sec Modern, I started there 1963 and left 1968. Mr Dimmer (Regg) was such a great teacher. Wonderful set of images to treasure. p.s we met today at the Boscombe Down Tornado fly past.

  • Jamie (Saturday, September 01 18 01:39 am BST)


    I am Jamie. One of the coalomen from last weeks steam fair. I know you mentioned taking lots of photos of us and it would be lovely to see them. Please get back to me when you can with prices ect i will most certainly purchase a few! In the meantime i will admire wgat you have on your page here already, hope you enjoyed the show! Speak soon


  • Don Russell (Friday, August 17 18 08:51 am BST)

    Hullo, found your site when looking for GDSF info. I was wondering if you had any information regarding engines travelling to the GDSF. I read engines will be raising money for cancer on there journey but I cannot find any info regarding route and timings.Thanks

  • Brian Moore (Saturday, August 04 18 12:40 pm BST)

    Thanks David: Brian

  • Peter Freeman (Thursday, May 10 18 09:56 pm BST)

    Fantastic site, easy to read and great pics! Keep up the good work.

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