This year's Palm Sunday (9th April) saw the 556th anniversary of one of England's bloodiest battles, and certainly the biggest battle of the Wars of the Roses: Towton, at which more than 20,000 people are believed to have died. Among the slain was Lionel, Lord Welles, whose remains were said to have been carried off the battlefield in two sacks. His tomb, topped by this splendid alabaster effigy (right) can be found in St Oswald's Church Methley; and on the left you can see Frei Compagnie Secretary Wayne Reynolds on Old London Road, looking extremely fine in his new Welles coat-of-arms and full armour copied exactly from the effigy.
Wayne and other Frei Compagnie members were at Towton on Saturday 8th April to help Towton Battlefield Society mark the occasion with displays and stalls in the Barn, and a series of guided walks for the public in the morning. Like last year, it was a very small-scale event compared with the major public shows we used to put on; but it still raised around £100 for the Society and involved a great deal less pain and effort - and I enjoyed running my Herstory stall in the morning then taking out the noon guided walk!
Then on Palm Sunday, the Society was back in force for our private members' walk. As we all set out clutching our palm crosses, with me dressed in T-shirt, shorts and walking sandals, I was very struck by the contrast between the blazing sunshine and blossoming, verdant fields of this weekend compared with the perishing cold and snow the armies had endured back in 1461 - it seemed to reinforce how very terrible the battle must have been for everyone involved, and how very lucky we are to have experienced nothing remotely like it in our lives. So it was with a due sense of solemnity that we held our brief service and laid our tributes at Dacre's Cross (below left); and then after lunch, Hubcap and I continued our battlefield pilgrimage with a walk from Saxton to the iconic burr tree in North Acres, site of the opening archery exchange, and where legend has it that a Yorkist sniper shot Randolph, Lord Dacre through the throat as he lowered his bevoir to drink. (Continued below pics).
L - R: wreaths and palm crosses at Dacre's Cross; the tribute on Lord Dacre's tomb in Saxton; the burr tree at North Acres; view of the battlefield from the Yorkist position
This short walk along the field boundaries, reached from Cotcher's Lane (off Main Street in Saxton) is well worth doing to gain a perspective of the battlefield from the Yorkist side of the lines. It felt quite eerie to do it with a southerly wind blowing on our backs just as it had blown on the Yorkist soldiers on the day of battle - albeit we had a warm breeze, while theirs had been freezing cold and snow-laden. And it's amazing how different the view looks from the southern ridge of Towton Vale; in fact I found it easier to visualise the battle lines and understand the course of action from this side, rather than from the Lancastrian position I'm used to seeing - so if you find yourself in Saxton with a half-hour to spare, I recommend this easy little amble (especially if you follow it up as we did with a cool refreshing drink at The Greyhound!).
To wish you a belated Happy Easter, here are a couple of pretty shots from our Bank Holiday outing! We decided to stay local rather than go farther afield and risk getting stuck in traffic, and enjoyed this beautiful walk starting from Waterton Hall at Walton. It took us past several lakes (left) and through the adjacent Anglers Country Park, where we stopped for a bite of lunch at the cafe; then on the way back to the car-park, we had the pleasure of walking through this fantastic bluebell wood (right) - an ocean of the real old English variety rather than the Spanish hybrids which are now so common. Then yesterday we
had a stint at Beckside; I pulled out the myriad sycamore and ash seedlings trying to establish all over the site, while Mick planted a couple of horse chestnut saplings and some wild garlic, which he hopes will cover the beck banks and choke out the invasive Himalayan balsam (below right). It's also a great food plant - the flowers are particularly delicious in salads as they have a strong, pungent, peppery-garlic flavour. Altogether Beckside is starting to look like paradise, and thanks to the spring sunshine and now a spot of rain, everything is growing at a great rate and getting fantastically lush (below left) - a far cry from the rubbish-infested, overgrown tangle of brambles and nettles we took on back in October 2014 (below centre)!