24 July 2010

Today was spent celebrating a period in history when war was commonplace, ale was in constant demand, politicians were corrupt, monarchs were insane, celebrity was worshipped and life expectancy in areas outside Glasgow was very low indeed. Yes, it was SKIRMISH, a festival of Medieval jollity at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire.

We had a great time poking around the large collection of traders tents, selling Medieval and also vaguely hippyish wares as well as long bows, swords and chain mail. It’s great fun to poke around even if you aren’t seriously in the market for some heavy duty weaponry. I particularly like the jewellery and glassware at such places but can never afford any, alas!

After this we moved on to the living history camp, which is always really fascinating and great fun to explore. I misspent a large part of my teens and early twenties as a member of the Sealed Knot Society, who re-enact English Civil War battles and so I feel right at home in living history camps. I really miss that sort of thing actually so love chatting to re-enactors nowadays about why they do it and what they get out of it.

The living history camp at Skirmish was great – I really love the opulent interiors of the some of the tents, which the owners had decorated with tapestries and rich fabrics. Some people even had wooden four poster beds inside their tents, which I thought rather fabulous!

Living history camps are great places to get a feel for how people would have eaten and entertained themselves during Medieval times. It was also apparently incredibly smokey thanks to all the bonfires and cooking going on! It’s nice being outdoors though and I think life back then was probably more outdoorsy than our lives nowadays.

After this we had lunch (crepe for me, wild boar burger for Dave, sausages for the boys) and then went to the main arena for the display of horse prowess from the knights. Sadly the knight that was supposed to be my fearsome alleged ancestor Robert the Bruce fell off as he entered the ring, so wasn’t very fearsome at all. I hereby DISOWN him.

After this, Felix tried his hand at some archery and was surprisingly good at it!

Ever wondered where to go for those essential Medieval maxi dresses? Wonder no more!

After this there was the jousting! I love jousting – it is such fun and I love the crunch when the lances crash against each other. It’s still possible to imagine how exciting it must have been for people in the past.

We managed to fit in a visit to Berkeley Castle, which has been familiar to me ever since I was a little girl. I love how it hasn’t seemed to change at all in all the years that I have been visiting and I wish I could share the amazing collection of Lely and Kneller portraits with you as well – there are some real beauties in there! You can also see an incredibly deep dungeon and the room where it is said that Edward II met his end by red hot poker.

We then returned to the main site for a battle re-enactment which was really good with lots of arrows flying through the air and explosions and bangs and the clanking of armour as they fought. It was pretty exciting.

It was great fun and I really hope they do it again next year! It’s on again tomorrow if you are in the vicinity of Berkeley Castle and fancy some Medieval frolics!

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