When friends mentioned to me that Carters Steam Fair was rolling into the park near them, I jumped at the chance to take Monkey there for the afternoon… I’ve already featured this travelling fun fair in my Urban Monkey Guide, but for those of you who haven’t heard of it, Carters is a lovingly restored collection of steam-powered, vintage Victorian rides, stalls, slideshows and games. Carters first opened in Battersea Park back in 1980 and is now a London Summer institution.
We were so lucky to have wonderful weather, so after enjoying a yummy BBQ, we headed to Parsons Green. We knew when we were approaching, from the squeals of delight from the children and throng of people heading in one direction. It was a sensory overload. Monkey didn’t even know where to look, let alone what ride he wanted to try out first. And there are plenty… and all very child-friendly, including the merry-go-round, helter skelter, and toy town ride.
It’s completely free to enter the fair, so you can take your time, wander around and soak in the atmosphere. We were unsure of how much it would cost – if you’re not careful the rides can mount up. The rides operate on a token system, and cards are accepted! It works out about 50p per token. We set a limit of £10, which then went up by a further £5! What can I say, we’re pushovers!
Monkey was giddy with excitement. He decided he wanted to have a go on the Jungle Thriller (see above) which was surprisingly very fast; the Austin Car Ride; the train ride; fishing for ducks; and the ‘house of mirrors’, which made him laugh hysterically when daddy looked fat one moment and then looked super tall in the next.
We absolutely loved the old Penny Arcade. The arcade now holds over 60 of the most popular classic “end of the pier” machines. And here’s a little interesting factoid for you – Carters Arcade is widely believed to hold the largest collection of vintage slot machines on a travelling fair. You purchase old pennies with new pennies, and with the old pennies you can have lots of fun trying them all out. Monkey was fixated with an ‘old-fashioned’ claw, where the prize was love heart sweets. Another favourite was an old-fashioned horse racing track where you had to pump furiously at the lever for the cardboard horses to go! Of course we didn’t win anything, but it was fun trying – and thankfully there was also a little stool that Monkey could pull up to them all as he couldn’t reach!
We didn’t get to catch The Wall of Death or Volitini slideshows, and there are plenty of rides catered for more daring and older children, however, all the more reason to go back when Carters rolls into town again.
It was a brilliant afternoon and even though we ran out of tokens, the kids were happy with their little prize from Hook a Duck (everyone’s a winner!) – and we even managed to avoid the candy floss and sweet stalls. Phew!