Getting Husband’s hopes up for a Victorian steam fair that I swore I’d seen a sign for weeks before and then being totally unable to find any record of it anywhere on the internet, meant a trip to a more permanent one – the Hollycombe Steam Collection in Hampshire. Personally hating the smell of coal (seriously, the smell could only be an English love) and being heavily pregnant, this was always going to be a challenging day out. But Weasel seems intrigued by steam (even if she is convinced spiders have something to do with it’s making), so off we went to the deepest darkest countryside.
The Collection is a slightly odd mix of people – half proper steam enthusiasts running the trains and various farm equipment whilst covered in soot (think Fred Dibnah) and half people who, shall we say in the nicest possible way, travel with circuses and carnivals running the fairground equipment. You’ll find the steam half with it’s cafe, small models, trains and displays of steam powered farm equipment will intrigue your toddler (more so if you have a boy-type toddler I suspect). Weasel slept through most of the barns, which is amazing given the ginormous, rough-terrained hill that we had to climb down. This is definitely territory for an off-roading pushchair. Weasel woke up for the steam fair when it sprang into life (these things take a while, literally, to build up steam).
Why Is It Awesome For a Toddler? You know when you go to a normal fun fair and you have to pay for every ride? Or when you go to a theme park and have to queue for every ride? Here you do neither! Your kid can just ride the ‘horseys’ over and over and over again. Word of warning though – the big carousel is rather fast – they’re going to have to hold on tight! The train ride and traction engine ride will make almost any toddler happy I would think.
Downsides? I’m not 100% about health and safety on some of the rides, and you might want to keep ahold of your child around the farm equipment – it’s not exactly tidy. A few of the rides were down when we were there, but fair enough give the few people that were there and the amount of effort to get the steam engines going on each one.
Food: There is a cafe with some hot dishes. It’s exactly what you think it would be. There’s also a picnic area for BYO. Beware – if the smell of coal puts you off your food, you might be a bit screwed. And here’s Weasel dissecting her sandwich, unfortunately a habit mummy may have taught her.
Loos: Baby changing in the main building at the entrance, next to the cafe in the disabled loo.
Accessibility: Mostly ok. There are ramps and the carnival area is mostly flat. You may think about taking and off-road buggy to get down the hill to the farming bits. The train doesn’t take pushchairs, but then it does just go to the end and turn around. You just leave it in front of the cafe.
Verdict: Although it’s now closed for winter, it’s definitely worth checking out when it reopens in the spring. There are some special events, like around Christmas time which you can check out. Take wellies (there be mud) and try and put aside any niggling health and safety concerns.