Last week's new thing took me out of my comfort zone in more ways then one. For starters, I left my home comforts behind me to camp for three whole, consecutive nights. That's two more than I have ever camped previously and, bearing in mind that the last time I went I woke up in the middle of the night thinking that it had all been a nightmare, this alone was no mean feat. Add to that a healthy mix of weapons, war and fancy dress and you have my Week 8 as I became a temporary member of the Earl of Manchester's Regiment in the Northern Association of the Army of Parliament... basically, I took part in a civil war re-enactment!
Its Not Just About Camping
As soon as we arrived at the campsite on the Friday evening though it was quite clear that this was something more. It could be described as a festival rather than a camping ground. There were tents everywhere high on the hill top, a large beer and entertainment tent and food and craft stalls. These things though, do not make a festival atmosphere, the people do, and the other 'Knotters' could not have been more friendly from the moment we pulled up in the car, everyone was incredibly lovely. Later, speaking to people, it became apparent that many members have a family history with their Regiment's - it's not uncommon for grand-parents, parents, children and children of children to all attend but you shouldn't think for a moment that this would create an awkward clique for a newbe. EVERYBODY was completely generous and welcoming, you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch (and I'm not just saying that because some of them were armed!).
Choosing a RoleThere were a variety of roles available for first-timers at the battle - pike man, musketeer or water carrier.
Days start at 10am with a drill, in which the newcomers received training and the old-hands practised.
Pike man is not just reserved for men but, to be honest, it's fairly brutal. You'd have to be a lady with special qualities to get involved in one of their scrums, involving over 30 individuals with long wooden sticks, and come out unscathed. I decided to give this a wide birth. The thought of being smacked in the face by a metal helmet and squashed to near death somehow didn't appeal... also very hot weather + lots of thick clothing + physical activity = urgh! Not something that a lady such as myself wants to get that close to!
Pike Men during drill
"All for one and one for all, muskerhounds are always ready"... the cartoon Dogtanian was my only previous experience of the life of a Musketeer and I don't think this was reflective of reality for obvious reasons. This weekend gave me the option to actually try out this role for myself. Although you need a license to be able to fire the gun, as a newcomer you are able to handle a gun and enjoy hand to hand combat on the field. This is still fairly physically involved and I'm a bit of a wimp so I decided that I'd give this a miss too!
So that just left one role option remaining - that of a water carrier (also known as a Good Wife although this title seems to be substituted more often than not!). Now, don't think that the job of a water carrier is literally a walk in the park because it ain't! It involves being out on the battle field, in the thick of the action, with a constant eye out for danger and a impromptu rush forward to water the troops when necessary as well as ensuring that there is a constant supply of water available to them (you can only carry so much at a time!). This role seemed most suited to me for my first time on the battlefield.
Me during Drill practising my water carrying duties
The Battle Itself (In Pictures....)
Dress code is quite strict but luckily there were spare sets of clothes on hand for me and my newcomer pals and other members were kind enough to lend us additional items such as hats and shoes so that we truly looked the part. I think you'll agree, I do!
There were many Regiment's involved in the the day, which was one of the largest Sealed Knot events of the year. The precession to the battlefield alone was quite impressive.
Especially given these stunning surroundings.
Out on the field. I am in there somewhere, honest:
My favourite manoeuvre of the day was 'the hedgehog', where those who were unarmed (like me!) were surrounded by pike men and the horses ran around us bashing the pikes with swords!
It's Not All About the Day Job
After a hard day on the battlefield, its fair to say that these people know how to party, whether it's in their civvies, traditional dress or fancy dress (apparently 'round head' doesn't count!). Drinking, dancing and partying is generally encouraged and done very well. Evening entertainment was provided in the form of a live band on the Saturday night and a disco on the Sunday, where the song words were projected on the wall for everybody to sing along to - genius!
We were lucky enough to borrow some traditional ladies dress for one of the evenings. As I said earlier, the people here are so generous, to the extent that we were even offered a choice of different outfits from somebody's personal collection... and what beautiful clothes they were. Time to embrace femininity after a day largely dressed like a bloke!
My friend and I in our lady get-up
I would absolutely and completely recommend this to anybody; it's social, it's involved, it's active, it's outdoors, you get to do fun things that you wouldn't usually be able to do and stay places that the public usually aren't invited to stay. The atmosphere is friendly and inclusive and I guarantee that you will be made to feel welcome by everyone that you meet. Plus, its very reasonably priced!
Go on, give it a go!
Thank you to Michael Molcher, a 7year long member of the Earle of Manchester's Regiment, who invited us to attend as part of his birthday celebrations (I won't tell you how old, I'll just say that he doesn't look it!). If you fancy it though, don't wait for an invite, just contact them through their website.
And finally... Action Photobomb!!!
Just for fun!