Look out for a procession of tractors along North Dorset’s lanes on Saturday lunchtime. They’ll be taking a short trip around the countryside from their base at the Udder Farm Shop, where they’ll be the main attraction at the Vintage Vehicle Rally and Family Fun Day, raising cash for Salisbury’s Hospital and Hospice.
The convoy will travel from East Stour along the back roads towards Motcombe and Bay, before returning. “We will leave the farm shop at about 11.30am,” said organiser Suzanne Smith. “We’ll have a country lane ride around, which includes a Ford and some off-road action. There is a trailer that the public can ride in too. There will be tractor rides at the show itself, for the little ones, as the road run will take some time.”
Suzanne reckons that there will be over thirty tractors and the convoy could offer a great photo opportunity as it winds down the lanes at a leisurely pace. “It’ll be very slow,” advised Suzanne. “We have signs on the back tractor that reads ‘thank you very much for your patience, this is all in aid of charity’.” And that’s what it’s all about – raising cash for a very worthy cause.
Vintage tractors have become Suzanne’s passion. When she gets home from her day job in Shaftesbury, Suzanne frequently works until midnight answering emails, booking stallholders and making arrangements for this fun day. It’s a huge, unpaid task but Suzanne and her partner Tony are committed to do this, in the memory of her father, Barry Smith.
When Barry lost his battle with cancer in 2010, Suzanne inherited her dad’s vintage tractors. Those tractors changed the family’s life. “He rescued these rusty old four-wheeled things and restored them back to their former glory,” Suzanne explained, adding that the family had no farming connection or specific link to tractors. “Dad worked for Sydenhams all his life. This was just something that he did in his spare time, on the weekends,” said Suzanne.
Barry didn’t leave instructions on what he wanted Suzanne to do with the vehicles. “Not a bean!” Suzanne laughed. She couldn’t accommodate all three vintage tractors, but Suzanne has kept and maintained two of Barry’s lovingly restored vehicles. “We have a 1963 Super Dexter and the 1953 Fordson Major Conversion,” she said.
“When we first got them, they hadn’t actually been used for little while. They had to have quite a bit of work done. The Dexter has just had an engine overhaul. We’re quite lucky because our son has just done agricultural engineering, so he can help. It’s a little bit of a freebie,” Suzanne smiled.
Both Suzanne’s son and her daughter now want to pursue agricultural careers. They’ve been inspired because of their close association with the tractors. “For the last seven years this is what we’ve been doing as a family. It’s been the main part of their growing up. It was never put on them but it’s the path they have taken. It’s really lovely,” said Suzanne. “When I can’t look after those tractors any more, I just want them to stay in the family. I think Dad would be really proud of that.”
All year around, Suzanne and Tony arrange and attended events where their vintage tractors are the central attraction. “We have the Bonfire Road Run and the guys at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Showground very kindly let us use their premises. We have a Valentine Road Run at Silton Manor Farm. Again, they allow us to take over their outside space. And the Easter Run normally goes from our friends’ farm in East Stour. Thanks to another friend who loans us a big lorry, we take a trailer to other events. We try to support those events and hope that they will come along and support us for our show.”
Suzanne says she wouldn’t be able to put on this Saturday’s Vintage Vehicle Rally and Fun Day without the support of her friends and the wider business community. “The events we hold throughout the year allow us to put money aside to put on this weekend’s show. We’re very lucky that our friends give up their time to help set everything up.”
“The local businesses have been very kind to sponsor us, too. As long as we can still get their support, we will keep on doing it,” Suzanne said.
Since their first show eight years ago, the couple has raised thousands of pounds for a great cause which the family is passionate about. “We split it now, but it always goes to the Salisbury Hospice Charity because they looked after dad in his last days,” said Suzanne. “This year we’re also giving money to the Stars Appeal at Salisbury Hospital. It is a charity that raises money for equipment that is needed. This year, their goal is to buy a new MRI scanner.”
So how much would Suzanne like to bring in on Saturday? “If we could raise anything above £3,500, then we are doing well,” Suzanne said.
The vintage tractors will prove popular but there are plenty of additional attractions to encourage the crowds and achieve that fundraising target. The event will feature a bouncy castle, fairground rides and face painting. “We’ve got some great American cars, military and stationary engines. We have motorbikes, classic and vintage cars, too,” said Suzanne.
Suzanne would love tractor owners to arrive with their own vehicles. “Anyone with a tractor who wants to come and have a little bit of fun and raise money for charity is welcome. We like to see everybody, but it’s the vintage ones which are close to our hearts,” Suzanne said.
There’ll be lots of great food available, too. “The Farm Shop’s restaurant will be open all day and you can get a takeaway from their deli as well. We’ll be running a barbecue at lunchtime. After the show finishes at 4pm, the barbecue will take over in the evening and we will have live bands running until about midnight,” said Suzanne. The musical line-up includes the groups ‘Mustang Sally’, ‘ Rip It Up’ and ‘Old As Dirt’.
In previous years, most attendees have been local, but some holidaymakers have called in and Suzanne says they’re most welcome. “We have had people down from London for the weekend and they’ve been fascinated by this slow pace of life.”
You’ll be asked to make a donation when you arrive at the event, which takes place between 10am and 4pm on Saturday, 28th July at Udder Farm Shop in East Stour.
Suzanne thinks that her father would be proud of what has been achieved since she inherited his vintage tractors. “He might think I’m slightly crazy, actually,” she laughed, adding, “That’s all I’ve got left of him, so I’ll continue to do it.”