Bread and Cheese…….

When we were at Corfe I got the chance to see some bread made over the campfire. I’ve tried this in the past (and it worked quite well) but I was interested to see how other re-enactors made theirs.
The bread recipe I had tried in the past had used equal quantities of spelt and barley flour mixed with a little oil ( I used olive oil) and then I added some water or milk to make a dough.
After mixing thoroughly, I made flat-breads and cooked them on the griddle over the camp-fire. Served with smoked mackerel it made a delicious breakfast!!
The recipe I used is pretty close to the one described in this blog (in the section about Baking without Yeast).

At Corfe, we were lucky to be camped beside some members from Manaraefan.  These guys have great experience doing living history displays, so I figured I’d pick their brains.
I was delighted to see that they made their bread in a similar way, except they added a little yeast to allow the bread to rise, and some roasted garlic to add a little flavour.

1-DSCF3439The bread was delicious – but then again I love freshly baked bread. And another treat; another member of the group had made a Blue Cheese Spread to go with the bread, Unfortunately I didn’t write the recipe down, but from memory it was equal quantities of butter and blue cheese; cream the butter until smooth and then add the cheese.

I’m definitely going to try this again at the next show we go to. The roasted garlic sounds wonderful; I love garlic bread with cheese – viking pizza!!

Kiddy Vike

Some of the viking shows have kiddy vike. What’s that?
Well, it’s a chance for kids to pretend to be vikings and line out against the big bad bearded warriors; not just the viking kids, but also the public. It’s usually for any child under the age of 13 who (with their parents permission) wants to learn to be a viking fighter. It can be quite daunting for a viking to face a fearless mini warrior; these kids have no sense of fear and have no doubts about tackling grown fighters and whacking them on their shins!

The kids are given wooden weapons and shields, and are also given basic instructions on attack and shield walls.

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The vikings form a shield wall; this is their basic defense formation.

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After some basic training for the kids chaos ensues; it’s attack time!

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And even a teddy bear isn’t safe from the vikings!

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It’s all done with fun in mind; the aim is to get kids interested and create an interaction between the child and the viking warriors world. Perhaps it might even interest some of them (and their parents) to become involved in the Viking Re-enactment scene.

Viking Raid in Corfe Castle!

Recently we were able to attend a wonderful viking event in England held in Corfe Castle, Dorset. The show itself was organised by the group Hrafnslith (or ‘Troop of the Raven’) lead by their leader Thurstan the Shoeless, assisted by his sidekick, Alric of Weldham. A full day of events included an opening skirmish between the Vikings and the Saxons, the Kings Court (where justice was dispensed on a number of crimes!), kiddy vike, and Saxon and Viking encampments.

1-DSCF3702The weekend show re-created events surrounding ‘The Alliance’ between the Saxons and the Brythonic Kings as a response to the arrival of the Danish ‘Great Army’. (The Brythonic were the Welsh, Cornish and Breton Celts).
King Alfred has gathered his allies and the army of Wessex at Corfe Burgh ready to march on Exeter, which has been recently captured and sacked by the Vikings. The Vikings take the initiative and head to Corfe in the hope of striking an early blow whilst the alliance is still forming. (For those of you that are true historians, this is fiction; the castle was actually built by William the Conqueror in 1090, and b
efore the castle was built, the area was know as Corfe Gap. However The Vikings Society needed an excuse to have a battle on the May Bank Holiday – so here we are).
I’ve included a few photos below to give an idea of the living history encampment within the walls of the castle ruins.

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The Saxon camp was laid out behind the palisade on the stepped tiers up to the castle.

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One of the highlights of the days events was the Saxon – Viking battle. The warriors mustered in the village square, and then marched into the castle grounds, where the battle re-enactment was staged. In previous posts I’ve mentioned that the weapons used are blunts, but believe me when I say they can still do some serious damage in the wrong hands. Only after hours of training and assessment can the warriors take the field.

The photos below show some of the fun the warriors have…..

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This has to be one of the best viking events we attend.
Hrafnslith are wonderful hosts, the setting is spectacular and the castle is an amazing place to visit even if the vikings aren’t around!!

Viking Training in Swords.

That sounds like a bit of a quirky title…… but Fingal Living History Society hosted a training weekend in the grounds of Swords Castle, Co Dublin; and yes, some of the training involved sword fighting.
Mind you, there were also spears and axes, and Dane axes and a bill hook if my eyes didn’t deceive me!

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There was a really good attendance for this training weekend. There were around fifty fighters representing groups from Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Downpatrick, Clare and also from England (apologies if I managed to miss anyone out there!).

The re-enactors use the training weekends to brush up on their weapons of choice, and also to learn other fight techniques. The less experienced fighters learn from the more experienced, and they get to practice as well. Here is a small selection of photos of the fighters playing in the castle grounds.

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The training can be one on one, or as a groups of fighters against other groups.

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There is also a huge social aspect to this event as it gives members of different groups to meet and socialise with each other.

But it’s not all about the fighters and their  toys; the crafters also get together for what is sometimes referred to as a ‘stitch and bitch’. I managed to teach some people how to nalbind, and a friend spent some time teaching a few of us how to finger braid with five loops. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos, but I did find this site that has some instructions and pictures. The braids would have been used to decorate hems on garments.

Great weekend away with lots done; looking forward to the next event!

Battle of Hastings……..2012

In 1066, Duke William of Normandy defeated Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings….. to be honest, these words are ingrained in my memory. One of my childhood memories revolves around this battle; my sister must have had a history test coming up, and my mum was helping her revise for it. They were sitting in the porch of the little house we grew up in; my sister lying on the floor walking her feet up and down the walls, and my mum beside her in the old white armchair. Mum reads the passage ‘In 1066, Duke William of Normandy defeated Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings’ and my sister replies ‘I didn’t get that mummy – read it again!’ So on it went…….. needless to say my sister didn’t turn out to be a history buff!

I’m not going to attempt to write a history of the Battle of Hastings here, but  you can find out the background to the battle here.

Suffice to say that while Harold was defeating Harold Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on 25th September 1066, William was preparing to land his forces at Pevensey Bay in Sussex. The two forces met at Senlac Hill on Saturday 14th October 1066.

Each year the battle is re-enacted in the present-day town of Battle, East Sussex, in the grounds of Battle Abbey. I’ve been fortunate to attend this for several years now; it’s like an end of season event for the re-enactors before winter sets in.  It’s a great event to attend with participants from the UK, Ireland and mainland Europe.

The site is laid out with both Norman and Saxons encampments, and the battle follows the script of the actual battle. Most years the weather is beautiful; but in 2012 it was quite simply a mud bath, apart from the battlefield.

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The Saxons line out at the top of the hill, in front of the abbey walls………

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with the Normans approaching from the foot of the hill.

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A key part of Williams army was his cavalry. Personally I always envy the guys and girls that get to do the cavalry fighting as I have always loved horse-riding.

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They are very skilled and quite adept at getting their mounts to engage with warriors on foot – this takes quite a lot of training and practice, both for the riders and the horses!

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Another key feature of the re-enactment are the archers.

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The battle script tells how the Normans attack up the hill and eventually the Saxons break ranks to follow them, allowing the Normans to take advantage and win the battle. Harold is killed by an arrow to the eye, and William becomes William I of England. We would come to know him as William the Conqueror.

I’ve included a few more photos; hopefully they demonstrate the level of skill and fighting that these re-enactors display.

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Unfortunately plans for a battle in 2013 had to be put on hold to let the grounds recover; we’ll be back in 2014!

Dublin Viking Festival 2010……… a trip back in time!

Did you know that Dublin city in Ireland was once a viking settlement?
The vikings named their settlement ‘Dyflinn’,  probably from the  Irish ‘Dubh Linn’ meaning  the black pool. The river basin provided an ideal shelter from the fierce storms they would have encountered as they crossed the Northern seas.
Ireland’s temperate climate and access to vast forests made it an ideal place to over winter, offering the vikings a place to repair and rebuild their longboats during the Viking off-season. But they didn’t just over-winter; they stayed. In fact the Norse ruled Dublin until 1014 when they were defeated by Brian Boru’s army at the Battle of Clontarf.

In 2010 we were privileged to attend a Dublin Viking Festival organised by Dublin City Council and Fingal Living History Society at Wood Quay. The location was the grounds of the Dublin Corporation offices, just beside Christ Church Cathedral. Between 1974 and 1981, the site was excavated extensively and revealed a complete viking settlement with over 200 houses. The finds from the excavations are on display at the National Museum of Ireland, and the remains of the old city walls are still visible on the Wood Quay site.

1-038I have to admit I was thrilled when we said we would go; we would get to do an event on an actual viking settlement site (albeit 1000 years after they were there!).

The show proved to be truely international, with Irish, English, Polish, German and Danish re-enactors taking part. The event followed the usual routine; a living history village showing the various crafts and skills that the vikings practiced and fight demonstrations. For more information on what Fingal provides as a living history display you can click here.

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The handcrafts included tablet weaving, nalbinding and woodcarving.

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There was also a kitchen display to show what the vikings would have eaten, and how they would have cooked.

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All the displays were interaction driven; as living history re-enactors we love people to ask questions so we can explain what we are doing.

The fight demonstrations were as spectacular as always; it was great that we had the international element to the displays, as it gave our Irish vikings a chance to pit their skills against these modern viking invaders.
The weapons used are metal but blunt edged, and are recreations of actual weapons that have been found during archaeological excavations.

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Most fighters seem to prefer using swords; to be honest, in viking times only the most wealthy warriors could have afforded to own a sword. Most would have used either an axe or a spear.

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To be allowed to combat on the re-enactment field, these fighters would have trained for months beforehand, and there is usually as assessment before they are allowed to participate. Modern day health and safety rules all events!!

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As you can imagine, there is a lot of  ‘acting’ on the battlefield when the time comes to die!

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It was a great event to attend.
And here’s a thought; in 1014 Brian Boru defeated the vikings at the Battle of Clontarf. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an event in 2014 to celebrate the 1000 years since the victory? There is one planned; hopefully that event will take place……… looking forward to it already!

Battle of the Flags – UCC style!

For a number of years now University College Corks’ Medieval Renaissance Society (also known as UCC MedRen) have organised an annual event on University campus known as The Battle of the Flags. This event takes place early in the yea and re-enactors from all over Ireland come to Cork and do battle with an assortment of weapons. This year was no different.

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The battle field was located on the Lower Grounds on the UCC campus, with the old college buildings overlooking it; the college provided a striking backdrop to the battles. We walked to the field along the Western Road in viking kit; to say that we got a few strange looks would be an understatement. Cars and buses were definitely slowing down, and pedestrians were giving us a wide berth. Can’t really imagine why!!

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Weapons included spears, swords, axes and dane-axes to name a few. I should point out that these guys train regularly and have to pass assessments before they can fight on the battlefield. Health and safety has to take precedence.

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The basic premise is simple; each team is given a flag and the aim of the battle is to engage the other teams and win their flag. Score is kept and the winners are the team that has taken the most flags for the duration of the battle.

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With six teams fighting there was a lot going on, and it was hard to keep track of how things were going – just as well there were independent score keepers!
This was the first re-enactment event of 2013 in Ireland, and I believe a good time was had by all – especially in the social gathering after!