Bread and Cheese …….. updated!

When we were at the Corfe Castle event I wrote about making bread viking style.

Last weekend I had a chance to try this out myself when we were at a Fingal Living History event held in the grounds of Malahide Castle near Dublin.

I had the basic recipe that I had used in the past, and after watching the Manaraefan ladies cooking some, I was pretty confident that this would work.

I used spelt flour (purely because I use spelt rather than wheat in all my baking). For measurement purposes I used a 2 cups to 1 ratio of white to brown flour. I added some yeast and some crushed garlic, and then used just enough warm water to bind it together to create the dough. Then I divided the mixture into small balls and left for about 15 minutes until it had risen a little. To cook the bread I just placed the bread balls onto the pan and cooked over the fire. A word of warning; you need to be careful with the heat from the fire. If the pan is directly on the fire, the bread may burn on the outside before it is cooked.  Also, dust the pan with a little flour to stop the bread from sticking to the pan.
You know the bread is cooked when you tap it and it sounds hollow.

1-DSCF4207For the second batch I actually cooked it on the griddle suspended over the fire.

I also made the cheese/butter spread I had been shown at Corfe.
I took half a block of butter and allowed it to soften enough that I could mix the same weight of Cashel Blue cheese through it – delicious.
No picture though – it got eaten before I could take the photo!!

Meanwhile over at the FLHS kitchen the girls were also cooking bread. Their bread mixture was made with oatmeal and apple. I’ve done this in the past where I’ve added some pinhead oatmeal to the bread mixture.

1-DSCF4350This was fun to do and quite easy to make……….

Swords Castle, Co Dublin.

When we were at the training weekend in Swords, we camped in the grounds of Swords Castle. Those of you that have read my posts before will probably have realised that I like old buildings so I was looking forward to seeing this one.

1-DSCF3328

The castle is in the centre of Swords town, which is about 15 Km north of Dublin City. It’s right beside the airport. The castle is the former residence of the Archbishop of Dublin and is reputed to be the only fortified residence of the Archbishop to survive today. Swords Castle was built over a period of 400 years starting before 1200 AD.
Brian Boru’s body is believed to have been brought here to be waked after the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.
I found a brief history of the castle here.

The entrance gateway is a beautiful archway and is flanked by two towers. It’s very like the entrance to Corfe Castle in Dorset (and just as narrow!).1-DSCF3327

To the right of the gateway is the restored church, where the stone work and windows  have been repaired as part of a joint project between FAS (the Irish government training organisation) and Swords Council. Hopefully they will continue the restoration project for the rest of the site!

 1-DSCF3328At the north end of the courtyard area is the Constable Tower.

1-DSCF3231

The ruins of a large hall are still visible along the east wall, though they are quite overgrown now. The fruit trees are here from the time that a previous owner used the grounds as an orchard.

1-DSCF3227

This was a lovely place to stay for the weekend. Unfortunately the castle courtyard is not currently open to the public due to issues about the safety of the entrance tower. This is such a pity – there are some beautiful buildings here, and I for one would have loved to have seen the dungeons under the church; been allowed to walk the battlements or even just sit in the restored church.
However it is possible to visit the outside areas of the castle – and peep through the gateway.

I’ve added a selection of the photos I took below. It was quite a dull wet day so they aren’t quite as I had hoped, but I hope you enjoy them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

1-DSCF3230 1-DSCF3218

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

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.

1-033    1-034.1

The handcrafts included tablet weaving, nalbinding and woodcarving.

1-050-001  1-047-001

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

1-065-001

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.

1-009  1-023

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.

1-062  1-063-001

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!!

1-021  1-018

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

1-020   1-019

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.

1-DSCF3021  1-DSCF3039

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!!

1-DSCF3038 1-DSCF3057

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.

1-DSCF3047        1-DSCF3043

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.

1-DSCF3042  1-DSCF3027

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!

Viking days at Birr!!

ImageBirr Castle, Co Offaly; strange location for a viking adventure, but the Fingal Living History Society had been asked to put on a viking village display at the National Game & Country Fair in 2011, so we found ourselves camped next to this spectacular castle. It is the home of the seventh Earl of Ross and his family, so the residential areas of the castle are not open to the public.

ImageAs the Fingal folks set up the little village, Bob soon had our tent and viking bed up! After years of sleeping on the floor of the tent I had finally put my foot down and decided that I needed a bit of comfort; I am a viking lady after all!! It proved to be a very comfy addition to our home from home!

Image

For the weekend, Fingal put on a living history display of how a viking village would have been. The group re-creates a viking tented settlement; this is something that they are excellent at. There are cooking displays, net making, the armory, bone and antler carving, nalbinding and hand crafts and a blacksmith to mention just a few of the activities on show.

ImageFingal also provided a viking fight display at Birr. This highlighted the weapons that the vikings would have  used and the way that they would have fought.
It’s a wonderful spectacle that also has an educational side to it! The lads explained about the different weapons, the way they were used and also the infamous shield wall. And yes those swords are made of steel – but they are blunted for safety purposes!

ImageWe escaped from the village from time to time. There was so much to see; displays in the main arena, the Tudor village next door and the gardens are spectacular! I particularly loved the waterside areas; very tranquil.

DSCF0198

In a corner of the field we made a wonderful discovery; boar! A local farmer had started to farm them and was selling the meat to selected butchers and restaurants in Ireland.He’s brought some to the Game Fair as a display.

DSCF0186 DSCF0190

Watching these boar dig through the turf was amazing; those snouts are really strong and they had ploughed up their pen pretty thoroughly!
If you have never tried boar, it’s like a game version of pork, but much richer and drier than pork.
He gave us some to take home; I roasted it with some cider and apples added to the pot ………… it was absolutely delicious! Quite dry as there was very little fat in the meat – but very tasty.

And our nights were filled with campfires and song – great time had by all!!!

DSCF0084-001