Shaftesbury Rotary Claim Record Crowds For Gold Hill Fair

Thousands of locals and visitors filled Shaftesbury High Street, Park Walk and the Abbey Gardens on Sunday for the annual Gold Hill Fair. The event ran in tandem with the fourth Shaftesbury Fringe Festival. Alfred was there.

Shane Hann is used to riding his motorbike at the speed limit, when he carries urgent medical supplies across Dorset. On Sunday, he had a much slower bike ride – at the head of the Shaftesbury Rotary Club Gold Hill Fair Parade, between the Football Club and the Abbey Gardens.

“It was fantastic. It made my day here. It was brilliant. I wasn’t expecting it. Usually the police are helping out with that but unfortunately, they couldn’t assist, so one of the guys came up and asked, ‘could we use your bike?’ As I’m in charge of the bike today, he told me to get on with it,” said Shane.

Shane Hann leads the procession

He said it was tough trying to ride a Honda Pan European bike at under 7mph. Walking pace is 4mph, so Shane had to travel at a challenging slow speed. Shane rode on, clearing a path amongst the High Street pedestrians as the Rotary President, Win Harvey, and Mayor, Tim Cook, led dozens of walkers, many carrying colourful flags and banners in the procession.

Rotary President Win Harvey and Mayor Tim Cook

Shaftesbury Primary School PTFA, Shaftesbury Scouts and Shaftesbury Rainbows were each awarded a £100 prize for entering the parade.

Shane’s motorbike group hopes to receive a larger sum. He is a Freewheelers ‘Blood Bike’ volunteer. The charity will share Gold Hill Fair proceeds with the Shaftesbury Guides’ project to extend Lindlar Hall.

Freewheeler Martin Surrey says riders work out of Yeovil and Dorchester hospitals. “We deliver blood products, tablets, and other drugs to get people out of hospital quickly and also biopsies to go between hospitals.”

Martin says this volunteer service saves the taxpayer thousands of pounds because urgent items were previously all transferred by taxi. “We do it for nothing and save the NHS a lot of money. The hospitals would normally phone Yeovil hospital reception and then they call the duty bike who will go and pick up wherever and deliver wherever,” Martin said.

He has been on some long trips. “If it’s way out of county, then it’s quite possible that they will relay out through other blood bike groups.” Martin has been on a 350 mile round trip to Bedfordshire and back. “It was a medical prescription and the only place that Yeovil District Hospital could get it from was laboratory in Bedford,” he explained.

Around seventy volunteers cover the 24/7 rota. The group needs to fundraise to keep going. “Each bike costs roughly £7,500 to £9,000 to run. We have two bikes at Dorchester hospital so there’s £14,000 at least. With our six bikes, it costs in the region of £50,000 a year just to standstill.”

Martin Surrey (centre right) and Shane Hann (centre left) with the Freewheelers team

Every half hour or so, the Freewheelers offered an ear-splitting blast of their bike’s siren, which seemed to delight nearby youngsters.

Across on Park Walk, the sound of a buzzer and occasional cheers revealed who had won a bottle of wine in the new attraction, the Rotary’s ‘Human Fruit Machine’. Three Rotarians randomly held up images of one-armed bandit fruit icons, such as cherries or bananas. Player Kate McIlwain was desperately trying to get a match, as Rotarian Bernard Skam explained the rules. “If you get two cherries you get another free go,” said Bernard.

“This is tense,” said Kate. She didn’t win a bottle, but Kate didn’t leave empty-handed either. She was handed a rubber duck wearing a Santa hat. Win Harvey said this new addition to the Fair was a big success.

Kate McIlwain tries her luck on the ‘human fruit machine’

This year’s Stalbridge Linen van pull was slightly tweaked. It takes strength and stamina to pull a 1.5 tonne vehicle along part of the High Street. Entrant Jake Martin said this year’s challenge was harder than previous years. “It’s the first year they have done it with five people,” he said. “We have one less person compared to last year.”

Jake entered the van-pull twice. He took part to promote his friend’s new Hawkers Hill Gym venture, which opens on Longmead in September. The Hawkers Hill first team was overall winner, covering the 58 metres in 39 seconds. Their second team followed just over 1.5 seconds behind. The mixed Shaftesbury Fire Station crew finished third, in a respectable 42.5 seconds.

The Rotary Club is still tallying up their fundraising total. The volunteers can’t always count on the weather, but the glorious weekend will have helped boost income. In a press statement, Shaftesbury Rotarians reckon that Sunday’s sunshine encouraged ‘record crowds’.