25th England’s Medieval Festival review
The 25th England’s Medieval Festival is truly unique in many ways, two of which are as follows;
- Set within the 300 acres of woodland and beautiful landscaped gardens that surround Herstmonceux castle in East Sussex, England’s Medieval Festival is the biggest medieval event of it’s kind. But don’t let the size of the grounds put you off. For the festival, ever vigilant of your needs, has a whole fleet of golf carts laid on with the sole purpose of transporting you to where ever you need to go. So if, after watching the amazing DevilStick Peat in kids kingdom, you wish to quickly travel to the jousting field, just put out your hand, stop a cart and say “Good day good knight, merrily I do ask thee to transport myself and family to the jousting field of honour”, and your wish will be granted.
- With the availability of camping, glamping and even rooms, you get the chance to fully immerse yourself in a by gone age of chivalry, honour and (as you don’t have to drive) mead and fine ales. Not just for a few hours on a sunny Sunday afternoon, not just for 3 whole days, but also for 3 whole nights!
“But what” I hear thee cry “Makes England’s Medieval Festival worth visiting for the entire late August bank holiday”? Well I’m glad you asked. Pour yourself a drink and sit back whilst I tell you all about an average day in the life of an England’s Medieval Festival attendee.
Imagine the scene if you can. You arrive on the Friday evening to the sight of field after field full of brightly coloured medieval tents, their banners flapping in the gentle cooling breeze. You drive right up to your already erect tent and quickly unload as your children, full of excitement, play outside on the grass. Fighting black knights and invisible dragons that only they can see. Then, once sorted, you wander down, pass kids kingdom and living history encampments to the long marquee that houses one of the bars and a stage onwhich a band is merrily playing. Here you sup on one of the many ales on offer. Your wife tries a glass of honey mead and your kids, still fuelled by the energy born of youth, run riot on the soft green lawn, stopping only to gaze in awe at some of the knights frequenting a table.
Your son timidly approaches the knights and asks to see their swords. You’re about to tell him not to bother them, after all the event doesn’t actually start till tomorrow. Too late, the largest of the knights is standing tall, slowly pulling his heavy sword from its scabbard and showing it to your son. He even allows him to hold it and pose for a photo surrounded by the other knights. A photo that he will cherish for ever and the event hasn’t even opened yet!
After the long drive to England’s Medieval Festival and a couple of surprisingly nice ales, your ready to call it a day. The trouble is your children aren’t. This isn’t a problem as you decide on a compromise. You head back up towards the campsite, then take a quick stroll down behind kids kingdom to the outside cinema. Here your kids have the chance to calm down whilst watching a medieval movie. Not only that, but it also just happens to be right next to yet another tavern, giving you the chance for a last night cap before bed.
Come Saturday morning your kids are up with the sun. It’s only 5 30a.m. but they’re so full of excitement that they’re fit to burst and your painfully aware of two things;
- It’s 5 30a.m.
- Your neighbours don’t have children and are very probably still asleep! Or worst still, now awake and planning how to get your kids, or you into the stocks.
You throw some clothes on and take the kids for a stroll whilst your wife goes back to sleep. Outside there’s a mist that wraps around you and the festival. removing you from the modern world and, like the mists of Avalon, magically transporting you back in time to a long gone age. You find yourself in one of the living history encampments. It’s eerily silent as you and your children talk in hushed tones, discussing the various implements outside the camps. Maybe you stroll through the beautiful gardens, or up into the woods, your kids wide eyed at the sight of a squirrel scrambling around on the ground before running up an ancient oak tree (the squirrel that is, not your kids). Maybe you head up to the swings and wooden play area far from tents and sleeping people (which, judging by the time of day and amount of weapons here, isn’t such a bad idea). Eventually you decide that its now a slightly more civilized hour and head back to camp. Here you meet up with your wife and head down towards the festival stalls and the wonderful smells of bacon, sizzling sausages and well needed coffee.
After a breakfast fit for a king you return to your tent and get ready for a day filled with fun, fun and fun. Your daughter is dressed in a blue and black dress with a purple cloak and looks surprisingly similar to princess Anna. Your son is dressed as a knight in armour, complete with plastic sword in hand and as you look at him, so the child inside you wishes that you too had a costume to wear.
Suddenly there’s the loud bang of a cannon firing. Rooks fly squawking from trees. You jump. Your kids scream and your wife, who’s just emerged from the tent, dives back in to change her underwear. “What was that”? your daughter asks with wide eyes. “That” you say as a smile slowly spreads across your face “means the festivals open”.
The fun begins;
As you hurry down to the festival your wife cant help but wonder who’s more excited, the kids or you. Your first port of call is the living history encampments that you wandered through earlier. Now they are a hive of activity. Smoke rises from innumerable camp fires. Here a maid is working a spinning wheel. There a lady is platting her daughters hair, as was the fashion in those days. A knight is sitting on a wooden stall, gazing intently at the long sword blade that he is running an oiled cloth along. Next to him, laid out on the ground is his armour and you stop to look at it. Another, younger knight emerges from the medieval tent, looks at your son, then says “Would you like to try it on”? Your son looks at you for the ok, his eyes wide in wonder. You nod and watch as the breastplate is put carefully over his shoulders and the full faced helmet on his head. In 5 minutes he has learnt more about medieval knights than any school history lesson could ever teach him.
You become aware that the first knight has stopped cleaning his sword and has now turned his gaze towards you. “”Sir Fredric” he says to his fellow knight “I think the young man isn’t the only one who’d like to try it on”. Any attempt to play the responsible adult has now long since left you, replaced by that inner child we all secretly house. Dressed in breastplate, chainmail and helmet and with sword in hand you turn towards your wife for a photo and as you stand there, beaming like a chester cat, so you cant help but notice not only your wifes look of approval, but also the glint in her eye as she stares at her very own knight in armour.
After the living history encampments you decide to head back towards the front of the castle and sit on a slope to its side. Here you’ll get a perfect view of what’s about to happen. The area in front of the castle is roped off and you all watch, spell bound as an argument breaks out between the leaders of the two armies. An argument that results in an epic battle known famously as,
The siege of Herstmonceux;
A giant catapult, or trebuchet to use it’s proper name, launches projectile after projectile towards the castle. The sky darkens as arrows fill the air. A blood curdling cry rings out from the armies as screaming, they charge towards each other, each side set on the demise of their foes. This is no staged battle, with rehearsed moves and pulled punches. The soldiers on this field are fighting a real fight. When a sword smashes into a mans breastplate you can hear the resounding crash of metal beating upon metal, with a force that makes one wince in sympathy for his poor victim. These reenactors are men, real men, who are partaking in real fights with real, heavy weapons. They don’t get paid for it. They do it as a hobby, because that’s what they do. Where as me? I do nothing dangerous, I do it not for a hobby, but for money, and they call me the fool! (There’s something wrong there). Your sitting safely to the side, high up on a grassed bank, but still you feel a surge of adrenaline pulsating through you as spell bound, you watch as men fall whilst others roar in triumphant victory. All this and it’s not even dinner time yet.
The battle over and the dead miraculously brought back to life by the crowd shouting that most magical of spells.” The beer tents open”. It’s time to enjoy the rest of the festival. Your wife wants to peruse the medieval market. Your kids want to investigate the apply named “kids kingdom”. You want to check out the medieval band that’s about to start in the beer tent. It’s not a problem, for what you miss today, you can enjoy tomorrow, or the next day. So your wife heads off towards the medieval market and you’re left in charge of the kids. You take them to the kids kingdom where, on a stage set between two oak trees, surrounded by hay bails and with a backdrop of medieval tents, a jester is getting ready for a show. Your kids head for the front row and you sit yourself at the back with the other adults.
The stage set, the jester walks on, arms raised as the crowd claps. He cuts them short, telling them that was rubbish. That his wife makes more noise than that on the toilet. Again he walks on, this time to clapping and cheers. Again he tells them it’s still not loud enough. “This time you have to clap, cheer, scream, throw little kids in the air and go crazy” he says. Again he walks on. The crowd goes truly crazy, and he hasn’t even started yet.
You thought you were going to spend half an hour bored, whilst your kids watch a children’s entertainer in a jesters costume. How wrong you were. For this is no children’s show. This is a family show. Good wholesome family entertainment for everyone. Performed not by a children’s entertainer in a costume, but by Brittan’s best ever real live jester. The one and only DevilStick Peat. But don’t be surprised, for that’s exactly what England’s Medieval Festival is all about. Good family entertainment for everyone, regardless of age.
The show is a mixture of tommy cooper type magic (all with a medieval feel) and highly skilled juggling. All of it bound together with a unique sense of humour that has you laughing as loudly as your kids. After the show Peats wife, Jester Dragonfly runs “The Jesters School of Jestering“. A juggling workshop where you and your kids can learn many of the skills DevilStick Peat used in his show. As you watch, one of her children teaches your daughter how to use a diablo, and you find yourself thinking that nothing is more authentic than a child following in her parents footsteps.
Drums, Hog Roast and Never Ending Bananas;
Then it’s dinner time and you make your way down to the front of the castle where you’ve arranged to meet your wife. She’s watching the musicians on the castle stage. You give her a peck on the cheek but say nothing. After all there’s no point in trying to talk, not while the 30 plus drummers from “The Pentacle Drummers” are playing like there’s no tomorrow. The sound of their drums is awesome. It fills your whole body. Entering via the ears it travels down to the stomach where it vibrates like thunder. Awakening some strange primeval instinct that forces your whole body to bop to the deep beat of beating drums.
Eventually their set is over and they collapse in a heap of fatigued, sweaty bodies and you go over towards the “buxom wench” beer tent. Outside and to one side, roasting over a wood fire, is a hog. It’s golden brown meat and wonderful smell makes your mouth water. You don’t care if there’s 20 people in the queue. You don’t just want, you need a roast hog bun.
You join the queue and watch as your kids play at sword fighting with other children. Suddenly they stop playing and watch gob smacked as the jester from kids kingdom comes strolling down the road. As he walks, so he removes a small white ball from his mouth. Then another one and another and another. By the time his reached you he’s taken maybe 30 balls out of his mouth and still others appear. He stops and looks into the beer tent, seemingly oblivious to the attention he’s got from the queue. Another 10 balls are removed from his mouth before he notices the children. He gives them an embarrassed smile, then another balls slowly appears in his mouth. The group of children are in hysterics as ball after ball is removed from his mouth. Then he takes a banana from his bag with his left hand. He looks at it confused, shrugs and transfers it to his right hand. As he puts it in the bag, so he notices that another banana has magically appeared in his left hand. Again he transfers it to his right hand. Again another banana appears in his left hand. Again and again, every time he takes it with his right hand, another banana replaces it in his left. He looks at the children and does it slowly, really slowly so that they can see how he does it, but of cause they cant. You look at the wide eyed look of wander in your daughters eyes and are about to point it out to your wife but stop as you realise that she too is watching with wide eyed wander and disbelief. Suddenly your aware of someone talking to you. It’s the man serving the hog roast. Your now at the front of the queue and you didn’t even notice the wait.
The Mud Stage and Jousting;
Your lunch over you decide it’s time to slowly make your way up to the top field where the jousting happens. As you make your way there, so you see a stage unlike any other you’ve ever seen. Sure it’s large and square with hay bails around it, like all the other stages, but this stage isn’t made of wood. it’s made of mud. Thick, gooey, dark mud. The actors on, or rather in this stage are performing a comic slapstick routine and you stop, take a seat and watch a while. Then they ask for a volunteer. With a bullet like speed your on your feet. Unfortunately your wife’s hand is faster than a bullet and she pulls you back down again. You look at her with pleading eyes, but it’s of no use. She’s giving you “that look”. The silent one that says everything. For a second or two your disappointed, but then you remember that not only are you here for 3 whole days, but so is the mud stage. Inside you secretly smile as you decide that tomorrow you’ll make dammed sure that your here without her.
Blacksmith, movies, cider and mead;
The show over, you wipe mud from the children and head towards the jousting. You soon realise that, like the battle, this is not a staged show. Neither the commentator or the knights in armour know who will win this championship, or who will be planted firmly on the ground as, at lightning speed, they charge towards each other armed only with a shield and lance. This really is as true and authentic jousting as you’re ever going to see anywhere, ever.
After the joust you hail a golf cart to take you and your son over to the blacksmiths. There are many activities that you and your children can take part in at England’s Medieval Festival, and blacksmithing is just one of them. Run by James from “odyssey blacksmiths”, this is a great yet fun educational workshop and you’ve had the good sense to book it in advance. Whilst you’re there, your wife and daughter walk through the medieval market where they stumble across a stall called “Magic Mead”. She knows that mead is made from honey, but never imagined that there were so many types of mead. Yet this stall is filled with row upon row of different flavoured meads. Raspberry mead, cherry mead, rhubarb mead and my personal favourite, chilli mead. All laid out before you with samplers on request. By the time they sit down to watch the birds of prey soaring and swooping around the royal arena, your wife has a bag with several bottles of mead. All of which I’ve tried and give my personal seal of approval too. Magic meads meads really are, well, magic.
Eventually the afternoon turns into the early evening. For those silly enough to only have day tickets, the day is over, but not for you. For you were wise enough to buy a weekend long glamping pass. You lucky man you.
The sound of the rousting band playing in the buxom wench tavern, although raucous, in no way interferes with “A knights tale”, the movie the kids are watching at the open air cinema as you relax with a glass of cider from the adjacent tavern. You smile as your children, now experts in all thing medieval, point out inaccuracies in the costumes. “We should think about getting some food” says your wife. You look at your watch and, in an attempt to stall for time, suggest that you let the kids watch the movie first. Then, before she can argue, you make a suggestion. “why don’t you go and put on that dress you brought today. I’ll stay here and keep an eye on the kids”.
Your wife returns just as the movie finishes. “well” she says, “what do you think”? She’s wearing the crimson medieval style dress she’d brought from one of the stalls. “radiant” you say in all honesty. “You need a necklace with that dress” says your son and he pulls out the pendent he made at the blacksmiths earlier. Its a twirly black piece of iron work and not badly made either. Your wife wears it with pride and you look at your watch. “come on kids” you say “time for dinner”.
A Meal Fit for a King;
You lead your family past the food stalls and around to the castle. You cant help smiling as you just know they’re going to enjoy this meal. A meal like no other. “are you sure we’re allowed in here” asks your wife as you enter the castles drawbridge room. “Oh yes” you say as you produce some tickets that you hand over to the young maiden at the door “quite sure”. You take two glasses of mead, one for each of you and pure fruit juice for the kids. Then you lead the way up the grand staircase and into the castles banqueting hall, which is all laid out for a medieval banquet. The look of surprise on your wife’s face as she realises that you’ve booked 4 seats at the banquet makes it more than worth the money and you beam with pride as you take your seats. The meal it’s self is several courses long and between each course there’s entertainment. Sometimes minstrel’s, sometimes dancers. Near the end of the evening the king, sitting at the high table calls for his jester and in enters none other than yours truly, DevilStick Peat, the very best in “banqueting entertainment”.
Your children, who only minutes earlier were yawning sleepily are now wide awake as the highlight of their day performs another set, with different yet equally amazing and amusing magic, including his very own medieval version of the infamous “glass bottle, bottle glass” routine. Then the banquet draws to a close and you head out of the castle. Your son is dead on his feet, tiered out from the days fun filled activities and you daughter? Well she’s already asleep in your arms as you carry her back to the tent. You have no idea what she’s dreaming of, but it’s a sure bet that it involves castles, knights in armour and a certain red and yellow jester (who just happens to be available for “birthday parties”). Your wife wraps her arm around your waist, pulling you close as she whispers a thank you into your ear. It’s only two simple words, but it’s said in a way that makes you walk tall and proud.
The perfect end to a perfect day;
Once back at the tent you put the kids to bed, then head over to the campfire. It’s only a few feet from your tent, so you can keep an eye on it as you chat with other revellers. Sharing tales and highlights of the day with each other. Eventually your wife yawns sleepily and suggests that maybe it’s time to hit the sack. The campfire is warm and inviting, but so is your bed. You walk back to the tent and tell your wife that you’ll be in in a minute. You just want to enjoy the warm clear night. As you sit outside the tent, thinking about how much fun its been, you open your programme. On the timetable you cross out the bits you’ve seen and circle the bits you still want to see (or in the case of DevilStick Peat, want to see again). Then you hear your wife calling you to bed and something in her soft tone tells you that the nights entertainment is still far from over.
And that folks, is a very condensed view of just one day at England’s medieval festival. The first day, when the festivals still just warming up. So what are you waiting for? Just follow the following link and book yourself into 3 days of fun, glamping and fun at “England’s Medieval Festival”. The best medieval festival in the whole of Herstmonceux.
Up and coming events
In two weeks time we’re taking our “Total Immersion Show” to a completely new show called “The Ancient Oak Medieval Fayre”. We’re actually really excited about this event as, although it’s a new event, it’s run by the same people who used to run the Snailwell medieval fayre. This means that it promises to be a great, action and fun filled event for both public and reenactors alike. Its being held on September the 23rd and 24th at Quy Park, Stow Road, Stow-cum-Quy, Cambs, CB25 9AF, United Kingdom. So if your looking for a good end of season event, then come along and say hi.
Next week we’re at not one, but two events. On Saturday the 16th I’m performing my show and walk about routines at “The Cherry Hinton Festival” in Cambridge. This is a free to enter event and full of loads of different types of things happening all day long. I performed here 2 years ago and was well impressed not only by the variety of entertainment, but also by the professional way it was run.
Then that night we head down to kent ready to again perform shows and walk about, this time at “The Faversham Food Festival”. I’ve never performed at this event before so cant comment on it, other than to say that, judging by the write up on their website they are also having a lot of none food related entertainment there. So if you’re in the area, then why not come along and say hi. You know you want to.
Today we had my sons 6th birthday party. Can you believe that Stormageddon is 6 already! It only seems like yesterday that he first appeared in my show, performing the hand balance (of doom) routine. It was a pirate party and the D.J. was a very good mate of ours who goes by the name of “Andy the clown”. Not only did he dress up in a pirate costume, but he also had loads of pirate themed music. He was a brilliant D.J. and when it comes to clowning, he is nearly as funny as me.
Lastly I’m going to leave you with a song by my good friend, Vollsanger. Why? Well it’s in honour of a good friend who recently passed away. He was one of the first reenactors I ever met and very respected in the trade. So fill up your tankards, turn up the volume and join me in a toast to our good friend “Gandelf Strutt”