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Pensthorpe Medieval 2010 – truly a Spectacular

September 1, 2010
early morning at Pensthorpe

early morning at Pensthorpe

The title for the fun and games at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve last August weekend was “Medieval Spectacular” and it delivered in every way. Returning visitors, who now have up to 6 of these events under their belts, say it just gets better and better. Each year builds on the previous one, with a range of skills, crafts and talents on display. On sale there was the usual unexpected and varied range of traditional goods: silver and gold jewellery all faithfully copied from surviving pieces, rare incense, longbows and swords ( both children’s and the real thing for adults), pottery, glassware and so on. There was a timetable of events that ran throughout the day and ranged from medieval music from knowledgeable musicians who were happy to explain their instruments, to stunning displays of co operation between the falconer and his birds

The gyrfalcon, kestrels and hawks displayed their  agility and accuracy to packed audiences who watched their speed and descent to the lure. Medieval prowess was also displayed by the mounted knights who demonstrated their swordsmanship while handling their horses, and combat displays featuring the Knights of the Round Table (courtesy of the Paladins of Chivalry took place in the central arena.

However, it wasn’t all knightly affairs and grand ladies. Down in the village, amongst the ongoing displays of smithing, chain mail making and mending, cookery, games, herb skill and fletching, a witch trial was in progress. After much detailed research, and probably for the first time at an event like this, the seamier side of life was resurrected as the magistrate questioned a suspected witch and then walked her – a humiliating punishment. On Bank Holiday Monday the witch was carted (paraded around for public ridicule on a tumbril pulled by village folk).

There was another first, too, in the weather. Traditionally the weather for this event has been good, with late summer sunshine and only the occasional shower. This year everything changed. The preceeding week had seen  constant rainfall which saturated the ground, and then during Sunday the wind gathered strength and seared through the site apparently gusting at 50 miles or so an hour by nightfall. It’s a testament to traditional tent building and materials that with only a few exceptions nearly everything was still standing on the following morning. A word of praise here, too, for the visitors who in the best British tradition of hardiness donned their wellies and jackets and still came to the event bringing their enthusiasm and interest with them.

Children were not forgotten at the event either. Apart from the musicians there were puppeteers giving regular shows, they had the opportunity to try tasks like using quill pens, bows and arrows etc and there were the storytellers who crafted old tales to packed audiences. It was a delight to watch usually sophisticated modern children listening avidly to the words that painted pictures in their imaginations.

Pensthorpe offers a superb site for this event. Quite apart from everything going on there are the lakes which are full of birds completely unmoved by everything around them, the quiet areas and walks by the River Wensum, the colouful Millennium Gardens designed to attract butterflies and bees, aviaries with rarer birds and the enormous enclosure containing the very fast red squirrels.

The event was organised and overseen by Black Knight Historical who covers a wide range of historical periods in addition to the medieval centuries.

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