I can hardly believe I'm typing 'September' already... where has the summer gone?! But one of my favourite months got off to a great start with one of my favourite events: the Frei Compagnie's annual outing to lovely Ledsham Fayre on Saturday 1st. We're allocated a whole field to ourselves behind the cricket field (which is full of craft and produce stalls, displays and entertainment) - with plenty of space to set up our tents and archery range, as the pictures on the right show.
And, as you can see, we couldn't have wished for a more mellow autumn day. By the time the event opened at 11am, the sun had come out and the crowds were flocking in. The event overall seemed particularly well-attended this year - great for the organisers and all participants; maybe people were making the most of one of the last village fairs before the new school term starts, combined with one of the rare fine Saturdays we've had during this miserable summer. But whatever the reason, our camp was busier than it's ever been before at this event - crowds coming to talk to me, Alex and Dawn about our laden medieval table and textile crafts, and to the 'boys' about their weapon displays - presided over by Lord Clifford, enthroned in splendour nursing a broken toe (Dawn's horse trod on him!).
We also had lots of folk to watch our longbow and crossbow demonstrations, and a great queue waiting to try their hand at our have-a-go archery session - we took £96, at 3 arrows per pound, in two hours! Then as we were packing up (without the traditional downpour, so everything went away dry for once), hubcap got a real treat - the falconer asked him to pose for photos with Olive the eagle owl (see below). So having had numerous friends call in to see us during the day, masses of interested public, a dry pack-up, and drinks in the Chequers afterwards courtesy of the have-a-go takings, we all had a fabulous day. Love Ledsham!
Before and after! Above, 9 am - setting up.
Below, 11am - hey presto! Instant medieval encampment!
Alex guards the kitchen with a purloined pop-gun... Mick falls in love with Olive the Owl... and Mrs Doggett poses with a well-killed cabbage!
Had a real treat on Sunday night! At the end of another glorious, golden, mellow autumn day spent pottering in the garden, Hubcap and I took a stroll down to one of the many excellent eateries within a mile or so of Helmickton. Some friends had recommended The Star, so we thought we'd try it for a change - and I'm very glad we did.
As you can see, the building itself is beautiful... and so is the food. Mick had the roast gammon dinner for £10, but I wasn't that hungry, so opted for a smoked salmon salad starter (£7.95 from the 'specials' board) - and expecting the standard polite portion, ordered some cheesy garlic bread on the side.
When it arrived I was flabberghasted - in fact my only 'complaint' was that if I'd ordered it as a first course, there was no way I could have eaten a main course afterwards! There it is in the foreground below: a big deep platter of mixed salad leaves with about half a pound of smoked
salmon lurking among them, all enlivened with pickled fennel - the crunchy texture and sweet aniseed flavour went with it really well. Hubcap's Sunday dinner was excellent too: a generous helping of lovely moist gammon with Yorkshire pud, roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, green beans, broccoli and cauliflower cheese.
Somehow we got it all down... and then, disgraceful indulgence, had dessert too. Mick went for his favourite profiteroles while I tried the chocolate toffee tart. It turned out to be one of the best desserts I've ever tasted: a dark chocolatey pastry case filled with a layer of gooey toffee covered in piped cream and chocolate sauce, beautifully presented with strawberry coulis, vanilla ice-cream and a rosette of raspberry sorbet on the side. (I'd already dived in and spoiled it before I realised I should have taken a photo!). After that we were both completely stuffed - and the bill for this huge feast, plus a drink each, came to £30, which we thought was excellent value.
So we groaned slowly home with loosened belts, trying not to get stitch, and resolving to come back again and sample the 28-day aged steaks from Cannon Hall Farm - apparently the chef brings the meat to the table for customers to choose exactly which cut, and how big a piece, they want before cooking! But next time we go I'll make sure I've starved all day so that I can really do these mammoth portions justice...
I'm an unabashed fan of Richard III. Whatever England's most-maligned monarch did or didn't do in his life, I owe him a great deal in mine... researching him led me to Towton and its Battlefield Society, where I found a load of new friends - and a husband! So I could say he 'introduced' me to Mick (who by a lovely twist of fate bears the same surname as a certain John Doget, King Richard's chaplain); and thence to the wonderful world of Wars of the Roses re-enacting, which in turn resulted in our official marriage on 2nd October 2007 (Richard's birthday, a date I knew I'd always remember!) followed by our weekend 'Med-wed' spectacular at the Crooked Billet on the edge of Towton battlefield... and the 'Herstory' life I live now.
So in updating this page I can hardly ignore the momentous discoveries in Leicester, where King Richard's body was taken after his disastrous
Richard III: the wedding gift picture that hangs over my desk to inspire me!
Richard's statue in Leicester, which I snapped as an undergraduate archaeology student
defeat at Bosworth Field in August 1485. Not only has his burial place, the lost church of Greyfriars, been located beneath a Council car-park - which is exciting enough - but a skeleton has been unearthed. The location of the grave indicates that he was an important individual, albeit interred in a simple shroud with no accompanying finery. His wounds, an arrowhead or blade fragment in the spine, and at least two head injuries (one of which cleaved off the back of his skull), are consistent with him being a casualty from the battle of Bosworth - again, tremendously significant in archaeological terms. But perhaps most exciting of all, the skeleton has scoliosis, a curvature of the spine which would have made his right shoulder appear somewhat higher than the left. All this circumstantial evidence points to the body being that of King Richard himself - and if his identity can be confirmed by further analysis and mitochondrial DNA comparisons, it will be the British archaeological find of the century. I'm trying not to get too excited yet, but very much hoping that at long last, some physical truths about Richard III can be proved - and that Britain's last medieval warrior king can receive a long overdue proper funeral.
Naturally, these developments have been of great interest to Towton Battlefield Society - by definition, a group of Wars of the Roses afficionados, and containing a goodly percentage of dyed-in-the-wool Ricardians among our ranks. But closer to home we've had developments of our own to celebrate...
Firstly, archaeologist Tim Sutherland (far right in the group pic below) updated our September General Meeting on his recent investigations of the inscription on Lord Dacre's tomb in Saxton churchyard (left). The lettering is now so weathered as to be almost illegible, buy by dint of some clever photographic surveys using raking light, Tim and his colleagues have established that past Latin scholars have 'gussied up' translations of the inscription with what they thought it should say, rather than what it actually did say! We await the final results with interest - but it's clear that the tomb covered the remains of Ralph (not Ranulph), Lord Daker (today spelt Dacre) of Gilsland (not Greenhaugh or anywhere else!).
Secondly, after months of hard work by the committee and other Society members, Towton Battlefield Society's new resource and study centre officially opened at the Rockingham Arms in Towton on Wednesday, 12th September. The pic below left shows some of the members who went along for drinks and canapes, and to view the results: a meetings room and a workroom-cum-library, both hung with an impressive array of heraldic banners, replica weapons and superb calligraphy created by Society members. The rooms are open to members of the public provided they are accompanied by a TBS member, and in future we plan to use them for all kinds of things as well as committee meetings: costume-making and calligraphy workshops, and somewhere to work on 'The Towton Tapestry', a concept suggested by some of our lady members. Watch this space for further details - meanwhile you can view some more pictures in the 'Society News' section on the TBS page.
25th September NEWS FLASH: GONDARLAN LAUNCHED ON AMAZON KINDLE!
As for Hubcap's big news, well... on Sunday we took part in Towton Battlefield Society's annual competition. The challenge varies from year to year, but the prize remains the same: this beautiful 'Towton Arrow' trophy (see right) crafted by member John Oldknow. The Arrow has been awarded for the best photograph, poem or T-shirt design, to name but a few previous themes; but in 2012, for the first time, it would go to the best archer... Hence Sunday morning, bright and early, saw us at the Crooked Billet with competition organiser Alan Stringer, the Palmsunday Archers, and other TBS members who fancied trying their skill:
The first dozen arrows we shot were used to divide us into groups, from Beginner through Novice to Experienced. They all counted towards the final mark, so I shot as well as I could... and ended up in 'Experienced', which would have the biggest handicap (the most distant target) for the afternoon rounds. Then, after a perfect autumn lunch of roast pork and stuffing sandwich followed by jam roly-poly and custard, it was on to the competition proper. First we all shot 30 arrows, and totted up the scores if we managed to land on the target! Next we had three arrows each at the 'dartboard' - where I didn't do very well - and finally, three shots at 'Captain Cabbage', who was worth an extra 100 points! I missed... missed again... then, with my last arrow, hit him smack in the middle! I wondered if the bonus might win me the day, because no-one else hit it - apart from Rob, whose two arrows both went straight through and weren't counted, and a certain Mr. Doggett...
But when all the points were totted up, it turned out that his last-minute lucky cabbage shot had done the trick. Not only did he beat me into second place in the Experienced category - he beat me into second place for the Arrow itself! There he is above left, receiving his category trophy from John Oldknow; in the middle, shooting his way to victory; and above right, as the 2012 Towton Arrow champion with John again and Society Chairman Mark Taylor.
Ah well. At least I can admire this lovely trophy gleaming on our mantlepiece... and feel very proud of my little Towton Archer. Not jealous at all. Or bitter. Honestly.