January 2014


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7th January 2014                         URGENT: TOWTON BATTLEFIELD UNDER THREAT! CAN YOU HELP?

It wasn't the greatest start to the New Year to learn that Towton Battlefield is once again under threat. Despite having had four years to make alternative provision for travellers in the Selby area, despite the ongoing review by English Heritage to extend the battlefield boundaries, despite the flood of protests received ever since a caravan was planted (without planning permission) on The Gallops in Towton village, Selby Council are meeting tomorrow, Wednesday 8th January, to consider granting permanent planning permission to the development. Aside from the immediate heritage implications, I'm desperately worried that a decision to do this will demonstrate that the Council's planning legislation has no teeth, and that anybody could develop land anywhere, irrespective of its archaeological or other significance and the overwhelming feelings of local residents, secure in the knowledge that they will get away with it. So please, if you have a spare moment today or early tomorrow morning, register your objections with Selby Council by emailing Richard Sunter or logging onto the Selby Council website to make a public comment; you could also copy your complaint to the local MP, Nigel Adams.


On a happier note, our commemoration of the Battle of Wakefield on 29th December went very well, as you can see from the pictures below:

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We were amazingly lucky with the weather; the forecast of 40% chance of precipitation coupled with a biting north-easterly making it feel like sub-zero turned out quite wrong! It was a perfect winter's day - crisp and sunny with only moderate wind - very pleasant to be out in, if a tad chilly. We also had plenty of visitors, including (I was flattered to learn!) a couple who'd travelled all the way from Liverpool for my lecture on 'Richard III and the Battle of Wakefield'. That was followed by a guided tour of Sandal Castle (there's me on the left, with fellow Frei Compagnie members 'Tall' Mike Wilson, our Gilbertine friar Tony Harrison and Mick Weaver standing left to right in the background by the castle wall in Keith Souter's splendid pic). Then we marched off to Richard of York's monument on Manygates Lane to lay a half-dozen white roses in memory of the Duke and other battle-dead, before returning for our usual huge 'Feasting Company' lunch at the Visitor Centre (below left, courtesy of Richard Taylor)! After that it was the boys' turn to do some work: Hubcap trained a large and enthusiastic young Sandal Castle militia to put our soldiers to flight in the kid's bill-drill; and finally we processed down into the moat for our finale, 'The Death of Richard III' in which Master Gunner Des Thomas (below right in another of Keith's images) got to bang his gun. The day was a great success for the Friends of Sandal Castle, who raised over £100 in refreshment sales (more than double their usual take on events). It was successful for the Visitor Centre shop too, judging from the number of kid's swords and helmets we saw wielded about - and from the number of my 'Wakefield Revisited' and 'Walk Wakefield' books I was asked to sign! Then on Friday 3rd, we got a lovely write-up and pictures in the Wakefield Express, (below centre) where you can find a slide show of images from the day - altogether worth doing.

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15th January


Further to the item below: Towton battlefield has at least a temporary reprieve from the threat of The Gallops in Towton village receiving permanent planning permission for a traveller site to be created there. So big thanks to anyone who read last week's post and responded to Selby District Council - I saw 172 comments registered on their website by the end of office hours the day before the meeting, rising to more than 230 last time I looked two days ago. Added to the voices of some 40 people who attended the meeting last Wednesday, this was enough of a negative response for the council to REJECT the planning application - albeit primarily on the grounds of green belt, rather than heritage protection. Nonetheless, we can heave a big sigh of relief that Towton is safe from development - for the moment. Because I doubt that the fight is over yet... and if you'd like to read more about my take on it, check out my latest blog on Helen Rae Rants.

27th January


While Mick was on holiday last week, we decided to take advantage of a break in the dull rainy weather to make a trip down to Lincolnshire and visit beautiful Tattershall Castle near Horncastle (left), as I needed to do some research and take photographs for a forthcoming magazine article. As you can see, we had a glorious day for it - shame the site was closed! This isn't the first time we've driven a long distance to visit a monument on the strength of a website saying that it would be open... but luckily, we were able to get into the grounds and met a friendly gardener who had no objection to us walking round and taking pictures. The castle was owned in the 15th century by Sir Humphrey Bourchier, a cousin of the Yorkist kings and staunch supporter of Edward IV (he was killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, fighting to put Edward back on the throne after the Earl of Warwick's rebellion and the short-lived 're-adeption' of Henry VI). Its most striking feature is this amazing red brick keep, so it was very frustrating that we couldn't get inside - and the gift shop was closed too, so we couldn't even buy a guidebook. Ah well - I suppose it gives us an excuse to go back and visit again sometime.


Luckily for our rumbling tums, after that disappointment we did at least find somewhere nice to go for lunch: the Tattershall Park, about half a mile down the road from the Castle. It's a whopping great big place (ideal if you're taking a coach party out!) with extremely friendly, helpful staff - the landlord even gave me a free snifter of the new 'Honey' Jack Daniels as I'd expressed curiosity about it, and it's real nectar. Then we sat down to a massive freshly cooked meal; I had the chicken burger (three tempura fillets in a big bun, with salad and chips), while Mick went for the home-made meat pie with seasonal vegetables, boiled potatoes and chips. It was all good, and came with enough veg and chips to have fed another person - so even though we were hungry, we didn't manage to clear our plates. Great value at just under £20 for two generous meals and a drink each - so if you're in the Horncastle area, I can heartily recommend the Tattershall Park. We'll certainly be going back if we have another jaunt in that neck of the woods.