1st August HAPPY YORKSHIRE DAY!
When I was a child, we never celebrated Yorkshire Day - for the simple reason that it didn't exist! This fairly recent addition to our annual calendar of 'special events' was first observed in 1975 by the newly-formed Yorkshire Ridings Society, founded in 1974 in response to the Local Government Act of 1972 and the threat it posed to Yorkshire's historical boundaries and traditional subdivision into three Ridings (East, West and North). The date, 1st August, was chosen partly because it's the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire (a cause championed by the Yorkshire MP William Wilberforce, whose house in Hull is now a fine museum), and partly to commemorate an important Anglo-German victory against French forces at the Battle of Minden (1751) in the Seven Years War; and the Yorkshire Ridings Society's celebrations of the day always feature a reading of the 'Yorkshire Declaration of Integrity', a statement of allegiance to Yorkshire.
Over the past 40 years, Yorkshire Day has 'caught on' and become quite a big thing; and we certainly enjoy celebrating it with a Towton Battlefield Society/Frei Compagnie event at The Crooked Billet (although we usually observe it on the nearest Saturday to 1st August, since so many of us work during the week). So 30th July saw us there as usual - and luckily without the usual pouring rain which has put a literal damper on several previous years! Yes, for once we had a gorgeous day weather-wise, a goodly stream of visitors to see our Roman, Dark Age and medieval displays and Kunst Des Fechtens open-air combat training session (see right).
Visitors were also able to view the recently revamped TBS Visitor Information Centre or have a go at archery, while I enjoyed running a merchandise tent which made nearly £20 in sales and donations for the Society; it was the first event I'd managed to get to since Palm Sunday at Towton. Then afterwards we all decamped to the Billet and rounded off the day in traditional style with a drink and a slap-up meal - so for us, it was a very happy Yorkshire Day 2016!
'Team Helmick' spent a grand day at Beckside on Saturday, literally making hay while the sun shone! Luckily, with two ride-on mowers at our disposal (you can see landowner Liz on the far left, test-driving their recent acquisition) and between three to five of us raking and carting away the clippings, we made pretty short work of the meadow, and by 3.30 pm were relaxing with cold beers at our new picnic bench (see below)!
In future years we hope to give the hay to someone who can use it for animal fodder (which would involve more tossing, turning and drying than we did on Saturday). But until we can arrange for someone to take it off our hands, we used it on site: raked and bagged it up (see left), barrowed it off to the 'wild' area at the edge of the field, and spread it out as mulch to choke off the brambles and bindweed trying to re-establish themselves around our hazel saplings. Despite all the modern equipment it was still hard work - but lots of fun.
In future it'd also be fun to get the Frei Compagnie along in costume to have a go at some traditional haymaking using scythes, and try our hand at building a proper haystack - re-enactors seldom get chance to do authentic land-work, which would have been the regular employment of most common folk in the 15th century. I bet it's a highly skilled job, which we'd probably make a right pig's ear of until we got the knack... and I bet we'd also get a lot of double-takes from passing dog-walkers if they saw a field full of medieval peasants slogging away at hay-making time!
Unexpectedly finding ourselves at Trinity Walk in Wakefield city centre at lunchtime today, Hubcap and I tried a restaurant we've never been to before, but will certainly be going to again! Yes, I can heartily recommend the Handmade Burger Company, where I had one of the best burgers I've ever eaten. There it is on the left (hiding under the onion rings and cheese slices): a beef American with dill pickle and mustard relish, plus an extra portion of lovely fresh mixed salad because I chose the 'bunless' option. Mick also went bunless, and on the right he's tucking into a lamb burger with mint sauce and coleslaw; we also shared a portion of crunchy sea-salt and rosemary seasoned chips, which were to die for. All the meat comes from Red Tractor-approved farms; much of the produce is locally sourced; there's a good selection of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options; the coffee is Fair Trade; and everything is prepared and
freshly-cooked on the premises. Neither of us could fault our meals; they were absolutely delicious and the portions were a good size even without buns - in fact if we'd both ordered a side-dish of chips there would have been too much. Alas, we were too full to indulge in dessert (vanilla ice-cream sundaes in a range of flavours including Banoffi Pie and Chocolate brownie) - maybe next time. The prices were reasonable too - just short of £27 for the food and a drink each (traditional lemonade for me and dandelion & burdock for Hubcap) - and it was very pleasant to sit outdoors, enjoy the mild summer day in an attractive urban environment, and be served by the friendly, well-informed staff. I'll definitely be recommending Handmade Burger Company to friends, and it's the sort of place I'd happily revisit again and again to work my way through their menu. Yum yum - give it a try (and make sure you're good and hungry if you really want to do it justice)!
Even though Hubcap and I both rely on the computer for our businesses, we're not techno-savvy. We don't like upgrades or learning new software; we resent built-in obsolescence; we're make-do-and-mend people who prefer to use our possessions to destruction (then recycle them!). So when the original supplier refused to clean out four years' worth of dust and cat-fur to stop our laptop overheating 'because it's too old', I was relieved when they added, 'But we know someone who will.' And they directed me to Microtech Computer Repair Centre, where Eddie, the friendly and non-patronising proprietor, sorted things out in no time. It was refreshing to find the shop busy - obviously plenty of people, like us, prefer to keep their perfectly functional (if ageing) hardware than replace it every time the latest 'must-have' comes on the market. So I'm happy to recommend Microtech to anyone in/near Wakefield needing technical help from a real human being rather than an on-line robot - and it's thanks to Eddie that I can write this today without the laptop threatening to burst into flames!
Then it was off to Beckside to deal with a completely different problem: the massive
Balsam on the banks at Beckside: Before...
...and after Operation Clearance!
choking growth of the dreaded Himalayan Balsam along the banks of the beck. As the image above left shows, it was in full flower, so we needed to clear it before it went to seed and created even more of a problem for next year. (Even though it looks beautiful and the bees love it, this non-native plant is a menace because it's so invasive and grows so tall that it chokes out our native vegetation and starves the insects that depend on such species). That meant getting into the water (luckily it's quite shallow!) to pull out hundreds of balsam plants, aided by Mick's patent 'balsam trap' (below left): a length of stout wire fencing stretched across from bank to bank to catch the stems at a place where they could easily be thrown over the fence for disposal, and stop any being washed away to cause a blockage/flood downstream. It was hard, messy work but vital: the rosebay willowherb, thistles, wild raspberries and briar roses have space and light to grow now, and Mick can plant some more native species like water-mint and celandine to bind the bared earth of the banks together. It should look beautiful next year!