It’s been a while since husband and I had a trip out and as it was such a lovely morning we decided to pop along to the Kingsfold Steam and Vintage Rally and Kite Festival. Actually, that is a very impressive title for a small country event, in fact it uses no less than EIGHT words to describe what it is. Hmmmm! Nevertheless un deterred by the grand and lengthy title, we set off for Wattlehurst Farm near Horsham to investigate this event, and because it hadn’t rained for a little while I drove in Agatha (my Toyota Yaris – old lady name for and old lady car!). As we arrived we were engulfed in a cloud of dust and 2-stroke fumes from the most amazing battleship grey Leyland Trojan driven by a slightly eccentric looking older chap. For anyone who has no idea what a Leyland Trojan is, basically it is a sort of box on wheels with no lid. This model was built in 1924 and is in great condition, running quite quietly for a twin cylinder 2-stroke engine.
On entry to the festival we found ourselves walking along lines of static engines busily pumping water, powering boards fitted with lightbulbs and more interestingly grinding flour. Each one splurting, popping, spluttering, spitting and chugging away, most in restoration livery, but the odd one still in “as found” condition, but all doing the job they were made for just as well as they did when they were new, and for most of them ‘new’ was some time between 1912 and 1950. I think my favourite of the day was this little Bamford engine powering a strange vegetable chopper called “The Unchokable”, and it is my favourite because of The Unchokable!
Definitely not vintage (although there were 3 examples from the 1980’s which could be classed as vintage at a stretch) was the large turn out of Honda Goldwing motor cycles, from the Sussex Goldwing Club. For those who do not know what a “Goldie” is, it is a large motorcycle which has all the comforts of car driving – radio, intercom, super comfy padded seats, ipod connections, built-in luggage system and in one case a trailer. The GL1000 or GL1100 motorbike made by Honda of Japan was originally built to rival Harley Davidson and BMW and quickly became the benchmark for luxury bike touring in the 1980’s. Popular in the British and European market it offered a completely unique motorcycling experience, making long distance touring comfortable and pleasurable; particularly when compared to other bikes around in the 1980’s. The 21st century version is a monster machine which I am sure goes very well in a straight line, but I for one wouldn’t like to take any sweeping corners on it at speed! Still, they looked amazing and the group does lots to raise money for charity with them, so that can’t be a bad thing.
Moving in to the next field, with longer and wetter grass, there were smaller displays of vintage breakdown trucks, some autojumble stalls selling all kinds of oddball parts, including one trader who had cornered the market in Mk1 and Mk2 Ford Escort radiator grills! next to the breakdown trucks was a shiny green Army Scout Car. This particular vehicle dated from 1953 (according to it’s information board), and is probably very like the vehicles driven by my father both during and after the war .
Wandering on we came to the BSA Bantam Club stand, which oddly enough didn’t have many BSA Bantams on it, but to make up for that it did have various vintage motorcycles including examples by Triumph, Matchless, Vincent (a Rapide not a Black Shadow like that owned by Laurence of Arabia), the very strange NSU Quickly which was a sort of motorised ladies shopper-cycle, a very strange beast indeed. My favourite had to be the very attractive looking 1974 (M plate)Triumph Trident, a truly marvellous machine (I am a little biased here having had a part ownership in a 1974 (N plate) Trident T160v). The machine at Kingsfold was in familiar black and red Triumph livery sporting the US custom style teardrop shape petrol tank, with a 3-into-1 exhaust system terminating in a shiny fishtail silencer. Very pretty, although our machine had the same shape petrol tank, it was yellow and white and had a far more attractive upswept 3-into-2-into-3 exhaust system.
One of the reasons I like going to events like this is the vast array of weird and wonderful things that you can see. Below are just a few of the more amazing things I spotted today.
With his eagle eyes and real gripping hands, you have just got to love Action Man, but do boys of today want to play with dolls – no matter how ‘manly’ and military they are? Is this why this battered box is full of lonely and unloved men?
This event was also supposed to be hosting a kite festival and there was a field dedicated to kite flying, although despite there being more than enough wind, there was precious little kite flying going on. However, I did spot a shoal of fish flags fluttering outside one of the kite caravans…
In a small paddock there was the strangest group of folk I have seen for a long time. Sitting around a bright red replica of the Deadwood Stage were a group of wild west re-enactors. I have to confess that I really don’t get people who re-enact as cowboys and indians. If this was the USA then yes, why not; but here in the UK, where we have so much more history and colourful heritage and lots and lots of bloody battles of our own, it all seems far too odd to me, not to mention looking out of place. Walking swiftly past this group I came across a small paddock with a pond, a small flock of sheep sitting under a tree and a llama! Yes a real live Llama! This beast was standing looking grumpy, but as soon as it saw me pointing my camera at it, up went its head and ears and it even turned to show me it’s ‘best side’ – vain creature!
The more we wandered around this event, the more we came round to the opinion that this was an event aimed at people who collect or own odd things, the chap who collected saw tooth keys, the owner of the mini dioramas featuring matchbox cars, the collector of colourful early 20th century petrol cans. All of these and more besides were set up under netted off awnings in front of caravans for viewing/inspection by whoever was passing by. the sad thing is that they were a bit off the beaten track and not many folk were passing by.
Making our way back to the main field and the trade stands we strolled up and down the lines of beautiful vintage cars. Now I am a sucker for vintage cars. I love the way they look, all that chrome and deeply shining paintwork, I love their smell – oil mixed with leather polish, chrome cleaner and T-Cut and most of all I love the deep throaty engine growl and transmission whine that comes from so many of them. The line up here was quite impressive and included a couple of cute Austin 7’s, a larger Austin 10, a fantastic Jaguar XK120 ( a mid-life crisis car according to its owner!), a couple of Alvis’ and a lovely Standard 8. Some of the more modern examples included the quirky Austin Frogeye Sprite, Triumph TR6, a couple of MG’s as well as various sports and saloon cars from the 1960’s and 70’s. Each one lovingly cared for and most in perfect as-new condition. One can only speculate at the eye wateringly large sums of money spent on these vehicles, but it’s worth it, they are amazing and so interesting when compared to the more sterile vehicle designs of today.
Austin 7, Baby Austin, Frogeye Sprite, Alvis and Jaguar XK120
The trade stands were possibly the oddest group of the lot! Real flower sellers traded alongside folk selling plastic flowers, ‘Olde Tyme Sweets’ stocked what to me looked like some of the more disgusting and sickly offerings from modern sweetie manufacturers such as Haribo. A stand selling everything you could possibly want for your dog also had harnesses which if they hadn’t been on the dog stand wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Fetish Shop; perhaps it is bondage gear for pooches! As we were leaving we passed by the event arena where there was a parade of tractors going on. Oh yes, the humble tractor, that workhorse of the fields. They all look the same to me, but according to the commentator who had encyclopaedic knowledge of every vehicle parading (and no, he didn’t have a crib sheet, all this information was coming directly out of his head! Man this guy could bore for England on tractors! But whatever floats your boat, we all have our interests and that’s what makes us individuals – Vive la Difference!)
All in all a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a sunny autumn Saturday morning. Lots to see, lots of old tat to buy (if that’s what you like), burger vans and Mr Whippy ice cream a-plenty all topped off by loads of lovely vintage vehicles. This may be a slightly weird event and not necessarily as visitor friendly as it could be, but it has been going for 14 years, and let’s hope it keeps on going for another 14 to come.