A fencing supply centre may not sound like the most promising place to go for an afternoon out - but that was exactly what Hubcap and I did last weekend! The Earnshaw family has been associated with the timber trade since 1780, and their present Head Office site at Midgley is close to the site of their first sawmill, opened in 1860. As well as stocking an impressive range of sheds, cabins, decking, garden furniture, fencing and the like, Earnshaws now boasts its own nature trail, opened in 2014. The trail has been created on an adjacent area of woodland, managed by Earnshaws to provide timber to feed their large modern sawmill, and makes for a pleasant walk. The longer trail takes about 20 minutes to walk round, and is interpreted with a series of boards (see left) with information
about the flora, fauna and wildlife (which includes a colony of the rare and protected Great Crested Newt). The trees are mainly oak, birch, larch and pine, and the trail is both picturesque and historically interesting; the photo above right shows Mick standing on the old concrete road constructed for hauling coal from the surrounding fields when they were open-cast mined in 1946; and the roots and branches of the hedgerow trees which had been cleared from the site were used to build a huge beacon lit on VJ Day in 1945 to celebrate victory in Japan and the end of the Second World War. There's also a shorter trail for children, complete with play areas and a series of lovely wooden tepees and dens among the trees - plenty to keep the youngsters entertained while Mum and Dad shop for a new garden shed!
Then yesterday saw quite an historic event on a personal level: my last Frei Compagnie AGM as Secretary! I've held the post ever since we founded the group back in June 2007, so it's about time somebody else had a turn - and I was delighted to hand the mantle (or rather the CD containing all the group documentation!) over to Wayne Reynolds (see right). Mick (seated at the back of the picture on the left, complete with battleaxe and Helmet of Power) will also be standing down as Chair in 2017. It feels quite poignant in many respects - but all good things must come to an end, and the time is ripe for us both to move on.
17th March PALM SUNDAY 2016
This year sees me and Hubcap approaching our most laid-back Palm Sunday for more than a decade. However, we'll still be at Towton with the Battlefield Society on Saturday, 19th March, to commemorate the 555th anniversary of the biggest, bloodiest battle of the Wars of the Roses with a full day of guided walks round the Battlefield Trail.
The event starts at 9.30 am when the first walk sets off from Old London Road. I'll be inside the Barn, (together with the TBS information and merchandise stand and the Towton Tapestry Group's display) with some Frei Compagnie show n' tell kit and my stall where I'll be signing and selling Herstory publications. I'll also have other pre-owned books and DVDs, and new copies of the Richard III trilogy CDs by The Legendary Ten Seconds (see left) for sale - all at bargain prices -plus literature for my SafeHands funeral plans. Then at 11.30 I'll leave Alex Harrison minding the shop while Mick and I do our double act guided walk (probably in medieval costume) - with any luck the weather will be as good as on the day the photo above left was taken! But I'll be back on the stall from about 1.30 pm till close of play; the last walk goes out at 2pm, and the event will end around 3.30 - 4 pm. It may not be our usual way of commemorating the battle - but I hope it will still be special for people who come along to remember those who fell on Palm Sunday 1461. See you there?
One of the most enjoyable things about being self-employed is the sheer variety of my working life. The past month has been a particularly interesting one for Herstory: I've done a couple of days of gardening work for Hubcap, sold books and a funeral plan, given three talks to historical societies and community groups, and led an activity day on the Battle of Wakefield for a local primary school! So even though I'm retiring from re-enactment as a hobby, my costume and kit are still getting plenty of use - on the left you can see my colleague, teacher Allison Robinson, who I dressed up as Richard, Duke of York (I was Duchess Cecily); and on the right, me in my humble cook's garb for a talk on The Medieval Kitchen at Campsall Village Hall, complete with items of kitchen and tableware to show and a plate of tansy cakes for the audience to try (which went down very well, as did the medieval gingerbread!)
The other great thing about it is, thanks to my hip replacement, simply being able to do a solid day's work without being crippled - and now I've got my strength and stamina back, I'm looking forward to a busy and productive time in the new financial year. But on the hobby side, I'll still be active with the Battlefield Society: I plan to run a TBS/Herstory merchandise tent and help with have-a-go archery at Frei Compagnie events this season, rather than getting into costume, and went to Towton on both days of the Palm Sunday weekend for the first trial of our new, pared-down event. No-one knew quite how it would work out; but despite the chill, gloomy weather and minimal advertising we'd done, more than 30 members of the public turned up on Saturday for the guided walks, and altogether we took more than £150 in donations and sales from the TBS stall. This represents almost 10% of the profit we've made in previous years on the full-scale event, for a fraction of the effort, no financial outlay, and none of the usual worries! So, judging by members' comments, I'm sure it also represents the shape of Palm Sundays to come; while we'll always make sure that the date is commemorated, no-one seems keen to go back to the huge workload and responsibility that the major event management entailed. The lack of that certainly made for a very enjoyable Sunday, with around 30 Society members turning up for our private walk and wreath-laying at Dacre's Cross, where I joined Chairman Mark Taylor in giving a short service of remembrance for the dead of the battle of Towton. And we got a glorious day for it, as you can see from the photo on the right - a very far cry from conditions on that snowy Palm Sunday 555 years ago.
A brilliant day for a battlefield walk: me and Mick enjoying a sunny Palm Sunday at Towton