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Deep in the heart of Thomas Hardy country, among the ancient chalk downs of Wessex; an event takes place this week that could not be more quintessentially or exceptionally English. From Wednesday August 28th to Sunday September 1st, the Great Dorset Steam Fair once again comes to symbolize so much that we revere about our countryside, our cultural heritage and our connection to it. It also marks the bringing in of the harvest, perched as it is among rolling fields of cut and mown barley and signals seeing off the summer in somewhat steamy style. As Bank Holiday rituals go, a trip to the Fair has everything.

Getting There

As the official website confidently declares, "Just find the village on the map, head in that direction and follow everyone else to the show". There is something rather marvellous about that in this age of SatNav and GPS. The village in question is Tarrant Hinton, near Blandford Forum and as anyone who has tried coming back that way from a holiday in Cornwall or Devon will attest, you really can't miss it. Covering an area of over 600 acres it is one of Europe's largest outdoor attractions. At night, it resembles a medieval encampment, with numerous glowing marquees, the drifting smoke from all the exhibits and a huge sprinkling of fairy lights.

So what's to see?

Well, it is not called a Steam Fair for nothing. The stars of the showground really are the steam-powered vehicles which began the revolution in mechanized transport and changed the face of Britain. From heavy haulage road locomotives, to steam tractors, to fairground rides, any engine that was ever powered up by the powerful condensation of steam will be here. Agricultural machinery was also steam-driven in the early days and there are many examples on display, from woodcutters to ploughs, threshers to timer loaders.

If all this sounds a little too specialized, don't worry. It is just the defining aspect of the experience. There are many other attractions from rural crafts to vintage cars and a huge array of stalls.

Music for all tastes

It wouldn't be a festival without music and with 6 stages and over 90 acts; the Steam Fair has plenty of lively entertainment to offer. It's not all tribute bands, there are fairground organs, pipe bands and dancing shows.

Pay on Arrival Camping

If you fancy giving it a punt, you can just turn up and pitch a tent. A spot costs £17 a night. They have hook up for campervans as well, but caravans are not catered for on this basis.

Big Steam Ale

Brewed especially for the occasion by local Glastonbury Ales, you have to sample a pint to get into the spirit of the show. Lots of places have beer and let's face it, but what other show has their own exclusively made?

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