August 2011

30th August

Phew... finally finished unpacking, cleaning and stowing away after our annual Bank Holiday weekend at the Cawood Craft Festival! As ever, we had a great time, great weather (mostly!) - and a great crew, as you can see from the pic on the right. Although it got off to a pretty traumatic start; the van was so fully loaded the back doors hadn't quite closed properly - so if it hadn't been for the friendly taxi-driver who chased us to let us know we were shedding gear down the road, I dread to think what would have happened. Luckily we'd only dropped a trestle leg and a bag of charcoal, so nothing broken - and no road accidents caused!! - but it was a big adrenalin-fuelled rush of panic we could have done without at 7.15 on Saturday morning!

But after that, we arrived without further mishap - and even managed to get a camp of 4 tents and the kitchen awning set up before the first rain-showers descended. And thereafter it was great fun...

sunday crew11

Cawood Sunday squad 2011: L - R, Abigail & Dean Davidson, Bill Bamford, Steve Clegg, Mark Harrison, hubcap, Mike Wilson, Douggie Weake, Su Harrison, Neil Wilson, Stuart Ivinson, Mick Weaver, Alex Harrison

Saturday kicked off with a march round the village, in which 8 of our stalwart chaps paraded - among them Kevin, a chum from darn Sarf we got kitted up and pressed into service for the weekend. They came back to a splendid lunch thrown together by the Frei Co cooks (Alex, Dean's daughters Megan and Abigail, and yours truly) - including a chicken & vegetable potage, and blackberry girdle-scones made from the brambles Mick and I picked in the woods behind our house (it's amazing what you can knock up over a camp-fire!).

At the end of a busy day of archery and combat practice, us hardy campers went out for a slap-up meal at the Castle pub, then came back and toasted marshmallows round the camp-fire before turning in for a sound night's sleep in the lovely tranquil Garth field. On Sunday we woke to a cool fresh morning, the cooing of pigeons and doves, and the strange chuck-chuck of a partridge or pheasant; got up to light the fire and get the bacon butties going - then kitted up to do our show all over again! We were joined later that morning by a special guest: Adam Roylance, co-founder of Kunst Des Fechtens and one of the country's premier medieval swordsmen - quite a feather in Frei Co's cap, because he wanted to see how we do things with a view to setting up a similar living history group in Nottinghamshire. (Amazingly, he was impressed enough to want to join us again at Bolling Hall at the end of September!). And we had the excitement of getting on local radio again... which gave Mark and Su Harrison chance to talk about the magnificent bounty of authentic-recipe medieval pies and salads they'd contributed to the lunch table - and me chance to give Towton Battlefield Society a good plug. If you'd like to hear our interview with Douggie Weake, you can find it on the BBC iPlayer by clicking here, and running to 2.34.00 in the programme (that's hubcap in the background, beating his drum and crying 'Victuals!').

Altogether, another super weekend for the Frei Co... and despite the glowering clouds, it even stayed dry while we packed down on Sunday afternoon! So we'll definitely be back again next year for Cawood's special 30th Anniversary Craft Festival, which the organisers plan to make bigger and better than ever - make a date in your diary for August Bank Holiday 2012...

22nd August

Oh, wah, woe... I've just had a VERY sad day... with extreme pain and reluctance, I've finally sold my scuba-diving gear. Well, I hadn't dived for nearly 10 years, and only have room in my life for one colossally expensive, time-consuming sport-cum-hobby involving tons of specialised equipment (ie re-enactment!). So, after much dickering and dithering, I disposed of the kit at the place I bought it from in the first place: Robin Hood Watersports in Heckmondwike. Oh, it was hell... standing in the shop smelling that lovely smell of neoprene drysuits and rubber, looking at all the posters for diving holidays... then parting from my dear little 'dumpy 12' cylinder, stab-jacket, aqualung and drysuit. I managed to hold it together in the shop - but I cried in the car all the way back to Wakefield, and had to sit down with a stiff whisky when I got home!

So today's entry is a tribute to my diving days when I was young, free and single (as opposed to middle-aged and married!).

happy diver
mull diver
me diving

4th August

It's been a very medieval start to the month for Herstory! On Saturday I headed off into the Welsh Marches on a fact-finding mission with Alan Stringer, who's my co-author for the 'Walk Towton 1461' guidebook scheduled for publication next Spring. Our primary objectve was checking out the Mortimer's Cross battlefield - but since the whole area's gagging with Wars of the Roses history, we decided to stop off first at Ludlow. As you can see from the pic on the right, Ludlow is dominated by Richard of York's spectacular castle - sacked by the Lancastrians in 1459 after York's strategic withdrawal from the field at Ludford Bridge, just south of the town. We could easily have spent a full day there... Ludlow's full of well-preserved historic buildings of all periods, great shops and markets and plenty to do... alas, we only had time for a whistle-stop tour before pressing on to Wigmore Castle.


Wigmore may have the been the place Edward IV stayed prior to the Battle of Mortimer's Cross in February 1461. It's a stiff hike up to it from the village, and although there isn't much left of the castle today, it's very picturesque - it's been allowed to overgrow with trees and wildflowers as a nature reserve - and the views from it are amazing (see left)!

After that, it was on to Mortimer's Cross. Whoops - we blinked and missed it. Yup, Mortimer's Cross today is still as it was in the 15th century - basically, just a crossroads (now with a pub called, very originally, The Mortimer's Cross'!!). I was quite surprised to find so little made of the battlefield, given the 'tourist trap' nature of the whole area... there's no battlefield trail or signage, and although there is a battle monument (erected in 1799), it's actually situated at the village of Kingsland and is also very easy to miss (a pedestal at the road junction, now standing just in front of a modern house). However, we did find an English Heritage-run historic water mill at Mortimer's Cross, which apparently has a battlefield centre in it... but with very limited opening hours - it was shut when we got there, on a Saturday afternoon in prime holiday season! So in some respects we came away little the wiser... though we did at last manage to take some reasonable shots of the battlefield, approaching north up the Roman road towards Mortimer's Cross - possibly the route taken by Owen Tudor and his troops on their way to meet the Yorkists.

Then we headed back... and after a day to recover from all the travelling, it was time to get ready for the annual TBS Open Evening ('Medieval Yorkshire') on Monday (below right). Luckily the forecast rain held off, so were were able to set up some impressive field displays including Dave Moss (below left) and Des with their armouries, Stu and Dawn (part of the Frei Compagnie's built-in 'multi-period' capacity!) as Yorkshire Vikings (below centre), the ever-popular have-a-go archery which kept hubcap busy all night, and around 15 students from Dean's sword class who came along to enjoy a bit of al fresco training. Altogether it was a busy and successful evening, as the pics below show... and we sold more TBS merchandise than we did at the International Medieval Congress last month!

wig keep

Wigmore Castle: keep (above) and view (below)!

wig view
yorks vikings
yorks night

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