England - Round The World Tour 2 2003 Day 151
Sunday 10th August
Since we’ve been following the trail of English Heritage castles and ruins over the past week or so, it seemed fitting that we should attend English Heritage’s biggest public event of the year that was going on this weekend in nearby Kenilworth. This would also take us closer to Coventry where we will be visiting relatives tomorrow.
The drive up through the country was one of the longest that we’ve done so far. The weather this morning had finally turned and ushered in what may very well be the end of the intense heat wave that we’ve been experiencing. Sunshine and oppressive heat gave way this morning to overcast cloud cover and some rainfall. For the first time since setting out a week or so ago, we started to experience the ‘real’ British summer weather for the first time. Accordingly, we decided to make use of the motorway system to transport us to our destination this morning. Up till now, we’ve been avoiding using the main motorways in favour of the more scenic ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads.
Upon reaching the general vicinity of the event, we followed the signs to one of the various huge car parks where we parked the brick and walked towards the main gate. At first sight, there didn’t seem to be very many people in attendance but we soon stated to notice a huge volume of people as we made our way through the event’s main gates and into a field full of wondrous sights. We saw literally dozens of medieval style tents in all directions and people were walking around in period costumes from right across the spectrum of history. Nineteenth century soldiers mingled with fifteenth century peasants and twelfth century lords and ladies. Knights strolled around in armour and battalions of soldiers marched around to the beat of drums. It was quite a spectacle and there was plenty to keep the senses on their toes. In and around the various tents were all manner of displays of historic lifestyles, arts, crafts and customs – a true historian’s dream. In addition to the several dozen acres of land set aside for all the tents and paddocks, a large field and a smaller one were dedicated to an ongoing rotation of various displays such as jousting, hawk hunting, artillery demonstrations, battle re-enactments and so on.
After enjoying the various field events for a while, we strolled around the various crafts tents and learnt much about how people used to live throughout the ages. Soon hereafter the heavens opened up and we were subjected to the full force of the characteristic unpredictability of the British summer. We found refuge under one of the tents where a group of fifteenth century inhabitants were awaiting their turn in the smaller field for a battle re-enactment with a rival group across the other side of the field. We spent well over an hour trapped with them under the confined space of the tent (with no sides) and I found the whole group to be tremendously enthusiastic about their hobby despite the downfall. That the whole group could maintain a healthy sense of humour throughout the demoralising downfall is testament to their dedication, passion and love for medieval period re-enactments.
By the time the rain had subsided, it was near the end of the day and the historic program of events was drawing to a close. One of the last field events we saw was an absolutely astonishing display of hawk hunting. With the high winds of the recent passing storm still in full force, these hawks were reaching speeds well in excess of a hundred miles per hour and were swooping well within striking distances of people heads standing around the area as they circled the crowds, swooping into the middle of the area trying to catch the prey being swung around on a piece of string by the bird handler. It was a truly impressive show that was an absolute thrill.
The last event that we saw before departing was of a battle re-enactment in the main field. There must have been a hundred or more people in full battle uniform taking part with canons and artillery exploding at either end of the field. The display was most impressive and I really felt like I was emerged in history.
After the excitement of the afternoon was wearing off, we made our way towards a camp-site that we were intending on staying at for the night. Along the way, we tried several times to stop at a filling station to top up our LPG gas tank. Alas, we could not find a petrol station with LPG that had the correct fitting for our tank. This is something I will have to resolve sooner or later since our LPG will eventually run dry. Once that happens, we will not be able to cook, heat water or maintain a cool temperature in the fridge.
We ultimately reached the camp-site was I was so taken aback with sticker shock at the £15 that they wanted just so that we could park there for the night (the previous place was just £6) that I decided we would not stay there after all. Instead, we drove around for another forty-five minutes or so looking for a suitable place to park for the night. There were no other camp-sites in close range (we didn’t want to stray too far from Coventry) but we eventually found a pub with a large enough car park that we could park at the far end unobtrusively. Hopefully, nobody will disturb us for the night and we have the added bonus of not having to pay anyone for the privilege of parking here. Of course, this also means that we have no external electricity or water hook-ups but we should be able to survive for at least a few days without these on battery and existing tank reserves.
Yet another castle ruin at nearby Kenilworth awaits us tomorrow. We aren’t due at Aunty Tiny’s house until after two in the afternoon so we should have plenty of time to take things easy tomorrow morning.