Dorchester Steam Roller

Generations of children have played on the old steam roller in the Kings Road play area in Dorchester. Some passers by have commented that it is not a real steam roller, but indeed it is. One made by the Eddison Steam Rolling Company in late Victorian times.

While the Eddison company had a long history and association with Dorchester, the company had a policy of donating old rollers to towns all over the country for play grounds. Much of the original play equipment has been removed by horrified fearful later generations, and most of the rollers have disappeared also. Once field guns and tanks adorned war memorials and parks, perhaps rollers were also hauled away in the desperate scrap drive in the last war?


Those that did survive post war have been hit by the perhaps sensible fear of accidents, for many years outside the Tank Museum in Bovington children clambered all over Tanks in the play area, sliding down frontal armour, swinging from gun barrels and even having races up and over the studded metal decks of armoured bridging tanks. Adventure now denied.



The heritage lobby may bemoan the lack of adventure in adventure play grounds today, but that same movement has meant that many of the now vintage rollers that were once a common sight have been removed and restored to their former glory. A roller abandoned in the village of Hazelbury Bryan when it broke down in the 1960′s is now undergoing restoration. At least one roller at the Great Dorset Steam Fair has been removed from concrete in a London Park to join the masses of machines at the worlds greatest gathering of Steam in Dorset every year.

The Great Dorset Steam Fair, near Blandford.  no one picture can do this event justice.










Tyneham Ranges

A pair of Chieftain Main Battle Tanks lead an engineer tank along the edge of the hill side on the Tyneham ranges. Once costing millions of pounds and a vital part of the British Army’s defence in Europe during the cold war, they are now little more than scrap.

Today they now provide training targets for Tank gunners not even born when the Berlin Wall stood. Older relics have been moved from the ranges, and there is often an out cry that part of military history can be so treated, but the Army needs ranges and targets. The local Tank Museum at Bovington is the biggest and best in the world and has many restored examples saved from ranges, and if they were not placed on remote hill sides as targets they would have gone for scrap decades ago. Fascination with the wrecks is a problem for the Army as people risk death or serious injury to see them up close or look for mythical rare models from the war. A few Comet, Cromwell, Churchill and Conqueror tanks exist on other ranges, without any public access and long since little more than battered rusty hulks, but there are none at all on the Tyneham range. A dozen or more Chieftains can be viewed safely from the road and footpath on days when the ranges are open, to risk injury simply isn’t worth looking for ghosts.

The road from Lulworth Castle toward Swanage along the hillside affords spectacular views over Poole and the county from the coast. Not always open,ring to find out if it is safe. Dropping down over the ridge of the hill there lies the abandoned village of Tyneham. Like the tanks, battered but preserved. Commandeered in 1943 to provide a larger training area for the longer range weapons and greater size of forces preparing for the D Day invasion the public can visit at times and usually through August.  A separate blog will cover my visit there in more detail.


View from a deserted house in Tyneham village, the tanks are situated on the other side of the ridge. And on a final note please remember that long after the war five young boys from the Forres School in Swanage found a tin of Spam on the beach 13 May 1955, and when they attempted to open it they were obliterated. Many mines and shells are still unaccounted for, in the fear of invasion in 1940 many were not properly recorded as they were laid in haste.