Moesgard Viking Camp

Over the past year I’ve often thought about posting about viking camp life.
I have posted about Moesgard before, but this selection of photos are from this year. They are mainly of the camp itself and the beach and I hope you enjoy them.
To be honest I don’t think any major description is needed so I will just leave them for you to enjoy!

Anf if you enjoyed these, you may also like my post on Swimming with the Horses!

Bob Davies – Viking swords.net

Spent a lot of time yesterday creating a new blog gallery here on WordPress for Bob’s viking age creations. Anyone that has read my About Me page will know that Bob is my other half. He’s a wonderful sword and silversmith and has a website already, but we wanted to  provide a better gallery for the beautiful things he makes.
Took a bit of time and effort, but I think it was well worth it!!

Take some time out; make a cuppa, draw up a chair and enjoy!!

Viking Swords

Welcome to Vikingswords.net; my name is Bob Davies.

I have a keen interest in history and metal working, particularly in the viking era.

I trained as a silversmith at the School of Jewellery, Birmingham, and from this I progressed to making viking age jewellery based on various archaeological finds from Europe. Over the years I have developed my skills as a metalworker to produce swords, seaxes and silverware, mainly for use in the re-enactment world.

I strive to produce quality items that are durable, feel right in the hand, look pleasing to the eye and are correct for that period.

The swords, seaxes and silverware pieces are individually hand crafted by myself.

Silver pieces, like the arm-rings and bangles are made using traditional techniques as they were in the viking age. The coinsare hand stamped on coin dies made by myself.

The majority of items shown on the different pages…

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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……….

Castle in the Mist

We were lucky to attend an event hosted by Hrafnslith in Corfe Castle near Poole in Dorset at the beginning of May. The weather for the weekend was absolutely amazing; glorious sunshine all day long. It made for wonderful days re-enacting!

But there was something else we hadn’t expected. The warmth of the days created mist and fog in the mornings.
When we got up the castle itself was almost completely obscured by the mist.

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I loved the way the battlements and the viking village appeared to merge into the mist.

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There was great heat in the sun and the mist disappeared quite quickly; but the images were pretty spectacular. Here are a few more photos of that beautiful morning.

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Viking bed……

In 1904 a viking burial mound containing a viking ship was discovered at Oseberg in Norway. The grave contained two female skeletons and an array of grave goods. Irish archaeology have a great post on their blog which outlines the burial and the finds; they also have some great photos.

My main interest in the Oseberg ship is purely selfish! And if you have ever camped you will fully understand why I was so interested in them!

There is nothing worse than waking in the morning after having spent the night on the cold damp floor of a tent. Yes, we had beds and coverings to make life more comfortable, but we were on the ground. I’m no spring chicken any more and I like a bit of comfort when I’m away.
During the Oseberg excavations, the remains of three beds were found. I first saw one of these beds at a viking event in Northern Ireland and thought ‘that is a great idea!!’
So Bob and I had a wee chat, and over one winter he built us a bed. It is based on the Oseberg design, but the ornate carvings on the corner posts were not really an option as our little A-frame tent wasn’t big enough to accommodate that. Our solution was to make the bed ends without the carvings. To be honest it’s a bit more like the Gokstad bed, also discovered in Norway (in 1880).

Here are a couple of photos of the bed assembled in the tent. You can see that if we had the carved ends then they would have pushed hard against the canvas.

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The bed is flat pack. We joke that there is a reason that the Swedes have Ikea…….. and that the vikings were the first ‘flat pack people’! It makes sense, as the bed packs away easily for transport. I’ve included a couple of photos of how the bed slots together at the corners.

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When it’s all assembled, we cover it with our sleeping skins. Looks pretty comfortable – and trust me…….. it is! Another great thing is that it increases our storage space as we can use the space under the bed.
Bob swears he should have made one years ago. Just proves my point; it takes a good woman to sort these viking lads out!!

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If you’re interested in making one of these beds yourself, there are some plans here on livinghistory.co.uk.

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!