ROBERT HARDY & ROGER KEECH
This has been a very painful week for Towton Battlefield Society - and also for me. On Thurday 3rd August, we heard that the Society has lost its much-loved patron, the renowned actor and historian Robert Hardy (left) who has died aged 91. I was saddened by the news, though I can't claim to have known Mr. Hardy - I only once exchanged a few words with him at a Richard III Foundation Inc. conference, but I was lucky enough to hear him speak at the Society's 550th Battle Anniversary Commemoration, and (like everyone else) was very impressed by his delivery.
Then just two days later, we discovered that another staunch TBS supporter, the film-maker Roger Keech (right), had passed away suddenly on July 14th at the age of only 64. That came as a bitter blow, because Mick and I had got to know Roger quite well since 2010, when he was preparing to make a programme about Towton.
Above: the late great Robert Hardy addresses the crowd at the opening of the Towton Battlefield Trail on our 550th Anniversary event in 2011.
Right above: Roger Keech (left) with his partner Brenda and assistant John at Towton in 2011; and below, Roger and John filming for the BBC programme about the battle narrated by Terry Deary.
We subsequently met Roger on a number of occasions, filming for the documentary and for Look North items about Towton. He was a delightful man: not the least bit 'luvvie' for a media person, modest and unassuming about his great skills as a producer and photographer, grateful for the slightest bit of help we were able to give him, and extremely generous in his support to TBS and to me personally. He allowed me to use his wonderful photographs on the covers of my books Walk Wakefield 1460 and Walk Towton 1461, and gave me blanket permission to reproduce other photos (like the shots below) for this website and Society publicity materials. He also presented us with CDs of stills and aerial footage he'd shot while filming for the Towton programme, as well as several glossy mounted photos including his iconic shot of Mick as the Towton Archer which forms the backdrop for the TBS website - and every Christmas we'd receive a card featuring another of his beautiful images. So I considered Roger to be a kind and supportive friend, and I'm gutted by his untimely death - a profound loss to the Battlefield Society, to the profession he served with such talent, and above all to his bereaved partner, family and friends. He was a true gentleman, and I'm going to miss him very much.
Above: orchard area before mowing and (above right) after mowing - phew!
Below: Hubcap shows off our first cider apples
BECKSIDE UPDATE: FRUIT OF OUR LABOUR!
August has been a very celebratory month, (literally - I did my first wedding celebrancy on Saturday 5th !) and because of two important anniversaries: the sixth birthday of our one and only Henry Wowler, and the second of getting my new hip/new lease of life. Our third anniversary of acquiring Beckside is also approaching; and since the place looks so gorgeous, we decided to hold a more ambitious party there than the small family gathering we had last summer. After all, that’s what the ‘Party Field’ area’s for – not to mention our new party tent and garden furniture!
So for the past few weeks every bit of spare time has gone into preparing the field – mowing, raking and strimming pathways – so that it looked at its best to receive 20 guests. Thanks to said new hip, I could feel justly proud of my ‘extreme mowing’ achievements (above) cutting some pretty steep slopes and the fiddly bits round the trees, leaving Mick to do the larger flat parts by tractor. We also spotted our first fruits (right) - shame the damsons weren't ripe enough to pick that day, because by the time Mick judged they’d be ready, the blackbirds had beaten us to it and the tree was stripped bare.
However, we reaped fruit of a different kind yesterday with a most delightful ‘Beckside Barbeque.’ Despite Friday’s dire forecast the weather was perfect: not too hot, not too windy and not a single spot of rain. Hubcap, helped by our friend Tim, had done sterling work setting out the party field like an al fresco buffet restaurant (below left): picnic laid out in the tent, sausages and chili keeping hot on the fire-range, a drinks table under the oak tree and a choice of seating areas (sun or shade) consisting of all the garden and re-enactment furniture we own or could scrounge for the day. He also set up an archery range for anyone who fancied popping off a few arrows and, for general convenience, our new green pop-up toilet tent/portable loo parked discreetly among the trees!
To our delight everyone loved it – especially two little dogs, (Max the Jack Russell and Willow the Sausage, below right), who spent their afternoon either racing around the field or milling around the food and being spoilt rotten with titbits. So a good time was had by all, and a good shot at archery by many – including Kylie, (below centre), who has a great style and the makings of a fine archer. Beckside certainly fulfilled all our hopes and expectations as an idyllic spot to entertain family and friends, and the party seemed a nice way to thank people who’ve worked hard alongside us to create the working woodland garden-cum-nature reserve we can all now enjoy… like some guests who stayed on until the bitter end (being forced off by hordes of midges). I thoroughly enjoyed myself too, and have a feeling that (by popular demand) a Beckside Barbie in August may become an annual event; meanwhile it’s made me look forward even more to celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary there with the Frei Compagnie next month!