Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Great Dorset Steam Fair

The Great Dorset Steam Fair at Tarrant Hinton near Blandford starts today.  Despite the recent wet weather, the event looks to build on the enormous sucesses of previous years, welcoming many visitors into the Cranborne Chase AONB.

The steam fair has attracted thousands over the years in what is reputedly the largest collection of steam and vintage equipment to be seen anywhere in the world.

The show regularly attracts around 200,000 visitors, becoming the fifth largest population centre in Dorset.  What these visitors will see as they travel to the show is one of the most stunning historic landscapes of the Cranborne Chase.

Neolithic Long Barrow on Bokerley Down
Copyright Jim Champion


The road from Salisbury features wide ranging views as well as numerous neolithic remains.  Long Barrows are some of the earliest monumental features forming communal burial places for often disarticulated bone from multiple individuals. There are 39 long barrows known within the AONB.

You will also pass The Dorset Cursus as you travel along the A354.  With a date of around 3,300 BC, it is a nationally important Neolithic monument consisting of a of a pair of parallel banks (1.5 m tall) running about 82 m apart, with external ditches.

To find out more about the historical significance of the AONB, see the dedicated website:
This website provides an introduction to the history and archaeology of the fascinating landscape of the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It also provides an introduction to historic landscape characterisation and explores how the AONB is conserving and enhancing this special heritage through Historic Environment Action Plans.


Tarrant Hinton itself is set in a Chalk River Valley, with the River Tarrant being a tributory of the Stour and Avon.  The Tarrant rises in the heart of Cranborne Chase before flowing for about ten kilometres across the chalk.

Linear villages are a feature of these tributary valleys.
Most of the valley sides are shallow and have been exploited for the cultivation of arable crops or improved pasture.  However, some of the steeper valley sides still support unimproved chalk grassland or woodland. Linear villages are a feature of these tributary valleys, containing cottages of locally distinctive materials, most notably red brick and flint with thatch.

The rest of the site of the Steam Fair is in a landscape type known as the 'Southern Downland Belt' - a large scale open landscape of broad rolling hills forming a gentle chalk dipslope.  It is a colourful landscape being rich with a range of arable crops and associated seasonal changes.  There are few settlements, with farm buildings being sacttered at low density throughout the area.

Villages of the Tarrant Valley

The eight Tarrant Valley villages all bear the name of the river:
  • Tarrant Gunville: the source of the river is in the grounds of Gunville House, now demolished
  • Tarrant Hinton: a village at a crossroads, with a parish church
  • Tarrant Launceston: a hamlet with a 3-arched 17th-century bridge.
  • Tarrant Monkton: a village with a parish church
  • Tarrant Rawston: a very small settlement
  • Tarrant Rushton: a village with a parish church. Near here was a World War II RAF airfield.
  • Tarrant Keyneston: this is the largest village of the eight; has a parish church
  • Tarrant Crawford, the final settlement, lies at the confluence of the rivers Tarrant and Stour. Here there is the church of St Mary the Virgin and Tarrant Abbey farm, where once stood a nunnery. There is also a vineyard here.
We hope that many of the visitors to the Steam Fair will enjoy travelling through the interesting and varied landscape of this part of the AONB, and perhaps visit some of the local villages and sites of interest while they are here.  The 'Discover the Area' section of our website has lots of details regarding what is on offer: