Monday 7th April
'One Mick went to mow, went to mow a meadow, one Mick and his wife (and two friends) went to mow a meadow'.
Yes, there he is (right) on his little red ride-on, cutting the grass yesterday in preparation for the great TBS annual Battle of Towton commemoration event on Palm Sunday, April 13th. He made a lovely job of it, too, as shown the picture below right... meanwhile Alex, Graham Darbyshire and I occupied ourselves with measuring and marking the field out to delineate the vehicle access routes and main pitches for the re-enactment camp (below left you can see me and Graham playing with string, all pictures courtesy of Alex). It was a vital job, because this year we're expecting our biggest turn-out ever - 50 authentic tents and awnings with displays of all kinds of medieval weaponry, crafts and activities; four trader tents (House of Freyja, Handmade Things, Noctule and Alex Greenland Gems & Fossils); a falconer; and lots more besides! So we've got masses to fit on a not-particularly-huge field, and I must confess, I'd begun to panic until we got it all properly laid out.
But now it's done (and we've established that we've got access to the barn and a working water supply!) I can start looking forward to the event. Meanwhile, if you're in the Towton area of a morning, I recommend you call at The Crooked Billet (like we did yesterday), because they've just started serving breakfasts - you can get a great big full English with bacon, egg, sausage, hash browns, beans, toast, mushroom, tomato and a cuppa for a very modest £6.50. We downed tools to go and have ours at 11.30, and it was a struggle to get back to work afterwards on such a belly-full!
So all we have to do now is pray for a fine weekend's weather. Oh, yes and do the packing, shopping, load and unload the van, erect the arenas and archery range and help put up 50-odd tents... all before we actually deliver the show on Sunday! Hope to see you there.
Phew - that's Palm Sunday over again for another year! And a mighty fine time we had too, with 50 tents and nearly 200 Wars of the Roses Federation re-enactors on the field - you can see some of them, including Frei Compagnie members Mark, Fran, Pete, Rob, Adam and Howard, to the left of the picture, mustering for the memorial service.
My own weekend had started on Friday at noon, when I trucked over a car-load of stuff to meet Alex and start putting up the tents. The weather was glorious, which made us feel hopeful for the event; and by the time I left the stalwart campers (Hubcap, Alex, Fran and trader Alex Greenland) to it at 5.30 pm, we already had 4 tents and an awning erected (and the Portaloos had arrived - always a good sign!).
Despite the comfort of my own bed I was too hyped-up to sleep much, and (to Henry Wowler's great surprise), by 5 am I was in the kitchen making a big pan of lentil daal to take for lunch. After loading the car with all the stuff we'd forgotten on Friday and swinging by the shops to buy a 'Captain Cabbage' for the archers to shoot, I was back at Towton at 8 am for the main setting-up day. The temperature had dropped by about 10 degrees, leading to a certain huddling round the camp-fire when we weren't otherwise occupied; but there wasn't too much leisure since the re-enactors and traders began arriving thick and fast (and to our dismay, we had to re-locate the TBS hot-cross-bun tent to fit Noctule in!). Then it started raining... but thanks to committee member Dave Lanchester's expert indoor planning (there he is on the right, behind his book stall), the end of Saturday saw us with the barn fully prepared and The Stagger Inn's bar installed; while out on the field, we had almost our full complement of happy, if somewhat chilly, campers.
I went home again to pick up two magnificent wreaths of red and white roses to be laid at the memorial service (and tend to Mr. Wowler, of course); then at 7.30 am on Palm Sunday, I was back at Towton for the main event:
As you can see from the picture on the left, we had a fine April day for it - if rather windier than we would have liked, especially in the afternoon, which meant some people including Stuart ('Lord Clifford') suffered damage to their tents and awnings. Luckily the wind didn't put the punters off; we had nearly 1000 paying visitors (not including under-12's) through the gate, and I had a goodly audience for my battlefield walk. That went pretty well (apart from me nearly blubbing, as usual, when we got to Bloody Meadow), although I'd forgotten to take water with me, and the zip on my jacket stuck... so I limped back onto site mighty footsore, hot and thirsty, and had to avail myself of a pint of cold beer before I felt strong enough to go back to camp and grab some lunch! The remainder of my day was spent largely in the Barn, selling my books next to the TBS table. It was incredibly busy in there, as well as incredibly dirty - the wind was blowing dust all over our freshly-swept floor and displays - and I managed to sell £170's worth of Herstory Publications, which was very pleasing. Then I emerged to take photos the battle scenario, kindly devised for us by Ian Brandt of the Beaufort Companye, and narrated by Chris Felton of Knights in Battle. This year's vignette represented a turning point in the Battle of Towton: the arrival of the Yorkist Duke of Norfolk, and the death of the Lancastrian Lord Dacre. Our Wayne Reynolds played Dacre, resplendent in the new livery tabard crafted by Frances Perry - there he is below left in the red-and-white, at the head of a fine troop of soldiers, plus a couple more images of the battle which featured cannon, hand-guns and archery, as well as hand-to-hand combat.
Then, after Dacre had fallen beneath a hail of arrows, the Lancastrians had been routed and all our 'dead' (unlike the casualties of the real Towton) had miraculously arisen, it was the end of the show - apart from the packing up, of course! Mick and I eventually staggered home at around 6.30 pm after an incredibly gruelling but very rewarding weekend in every respect: wonderful feedback from participants and public alike, over £4000 (excluding expenses) raised for Towton Battlefield Society - and most importantly of all, the dead of our bloodiest Wars of the Roses battle remembered and commemorated again. God bless them - and God bless you. Have a very happy Easter.