That gloriously sunny Easter weekend we had a couple of weeks ago was probably one of the nicest weekends I’ve had in a long time. Four days with no work, no cakes to make, no house jobs to do, and no pressure to get up early. My Mum was visiting so we’d even planned a couple of nice days out and I remember thinking “Easter is my new favourite holiday“. It was also the weekend my son turned 14 (god help me) and conveniently Carters Steam Fair were in town. We love Carters Steam Fair, and we’ve been twice now. The first time we went was last year and we were all quite surprised about how much fun we had.
So, Easter Sunday afternoon we all piled in the car and headed on over to Prospect Park in Reading. The mission was to eat lots of sugary food and then make ourselves feel a tad queasy from going on the rides far too many times.
Carters is not your average fair with booming music and garish neon signs everywhere. Family run, Carters is a dose of pure nostalgia with beautifully restored and painted rides collected from all over the UK dating from the 1890s to the 1960s.
In fact, and I didn’t know this until I did a little research, but the Carter family have been rescuing heritage fairground vehicles from all over the country and restoring them at their yard in Maidenhead. Founded in 1977 by John and Anna Carter, throughout the summer months, they take their vintage fair on tour around the south-east of England, London and a few other UK locations too.
Many of the rides are found in a dilapidated state, and current fairground owners Joby and Georgina Carter work with their team to make them roadworthy and repaint them in a traditional fairground style. Everything on the fair, including the rides, vehicles and caravans is painted by hand in designs that are faithful to how they would have originally looked.
Surrounding the wonderfully painted rides is a backdrop of period caravans, lorries and even a real steam engine with The Carters name painted on almost everything. Keep an eye out for paintings of the man with the long beard, that’s John Carter (the original founder) himself!
For me, visiting Carters Steam Fair is just the epitome of my childhood and I love seeing both our children, even at 14, having fun, screaming and laughing and begging to go on another ride, just one more time. It’s a sensory overload with the noises, the smells, the bright colours, and you cannot help but want to join in with the fun!
The best thing is, there’s a ride suitable for everyone; toddlers, teenagers and adults.
The steam yachts are one of only two or three surviving examples of a stately ride which was very popular in Britain at the turn of the 20th century. Many steam driven machines were converted to diesel when boiler inspections and new laws were introduced in the 1950s.
Carter’s found the Steam Yachts in the 1970s in a scrapyard in Scotland. The restoration process was expensive and tough, including two new yachts built to the original pattern and new timbers specially imported from Canada, but it was all worth it in the end! The detail and workmanship are just incredible.
Nope, it’s actually a Galloper! Not many people realise that a carousel is an American ride which turns anti-clockwise and the horses are often different from each other. The Gallopers, a very British ride, turns clockwise. They’re called Gallopers because the horses speed round, and as they race they’re pulled up and down on cams, which gives them a ‘galloping’ motion. When they were made in about 1895, this would have been the fastest most people had ever travelled. It was also the very first ride that the Carters bought in 1977.
The Bumper Cars (as I’ve always called them) or the Dodgems as they’re more commonly known, are always one of the most popular rides on the fair. We’re quite a competitive family and we love bumping into each other and I could see the look of delight when my son, and my brother too, crashed into the back of me! More than once. At full speed.
Is always The Lightning Skid. It wasn’t here this year so we were all a little sad about that. Noisy and fast, and beautifully decorated, the Skid is a very popular ride that was built in 1965. And, it’s not a Waltzer. Many people get the Skid confused with a Waltzer because the shape of the cars are similar. Waltzers have hills, and the cars spin 360°. You manually spin your car with a foot pedal in the Skid, which I mistakenly let my son control!
Is never going to be amazing. Let’s face it. But, you’re not going to eat fantastically good food and if you don’t fancy trying a burger or a hot dog, then the ice-cream, mini-doughnuts, hot chocolates, waffles and candy floss are a good substitute.
Carters Steam Fair travels around sites in the south of England. It spends about a week in each location so keep an eye out for the posters or, take a peek at the dates on their website here.
My visit to Carters was sponsored and free tickets were provided in return for an honest review. As usual, opinions and photos are my own.