August 2014

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Above: Dean uses his rondel dagger (the tin-opener for knights) on Stu. Below: Stu rests, weary from combat

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11th August

The Frei Compagnie had a different sort of day on Wednesday 6th, appearing at a National Playday event at Queen's Park in Castleford. As it was a weekday we were just a small, select team of self-employed and holidaying-schoolteacher or student members: me, Alex, Wayne, Des and his grand-daughters Hannah and Amanda (everyone else was at work!). And I'm very glad we had the opportunity to go, because Queen's Park is a wonderful traditional Victorian civic park, restored to glory by a dedicated team of Friends. The site it occupies originally belonged to two major local landowners, the Monkton Milnes of Fryston Hall and the Blands of Old Kippax Park Hall; they began creating the Park in the late 1800's, and it officially opened in 1897 in time for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. The original bandstand (restored by the Friends group) is still standing, as is the Bowling Green Pavilion built in 1910; some of the trees planted at the time are now in full magnificent maturity, and the original pathways are still extant too, albeit now covered in tarmac. It also has football fields, a 'Chill Zone' for young people and a wild meadow, and it's now a popular, well-used community resource with a lively events programme including band concerts and horse shows - thanks largely to the Friends' energetic fund-raising for improvements, and their success in wiping out the anti-social behaviour which had for years blighted the place.

So we were very pleased to support the event, despite the periodic downpours (above right) which had Wayne diving for cover to stop his armour rusting, and, sadly, kept away a good number of visitors (the organisers estimated a crowd of around 1500, whereas the event normally attracts between 3000 - 4000). That was a shame, because most of the time we were in blazing sunshine (below right), and the people who ignored the weather forecast thoroughly enjoyed the rides, stalls, bouncy castle, birds of prey, children's games and other attractions. They liked us, too, especially Des and Hannah's big bangs (below centre) and trying on our kit (below right); we had fun too, and Wayne even got chance to meet the Castleford Tiger (below left)! So a lovely place to visit, a great day all round, and I hope we can take part again next year.

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That literally put a damper on things, and cleared the field as all the visitors made a mad dash for the pub while re-enactors scrambled to get all their shiny metal pointy things under cover! Luckily the rain had eased off slightly when I left St Mary's with my little band to walk back across the sodden grass with water soaking slowly up my linen damask skirts - but it soon started again, and we sat helplessly under the kitchen awning watching it pour down. So that put a literal damper on proceedings, and probably put off a lot of visitors who would otherwise have come - because we never recovered much a crowd even when the rain stopped and the sun shone brightly for the rest of the day. Ah well - we still had fun; I sold over £50's worth of books, and £20's worth of TBS merchandise; and a half-dozen of us rounded it all off with a slap-up meal in the Billet (I can warmly recommend the pork burger with stuffing and apple/cider compote). Happy Yorkshire Day!