One way in which we have sought to save some pennies this summer is to become English Heritage members. For the four of us, this costs £8.00 per month (via direct debit) and gives us access to over 400 historic locations, as well as discounts to events. Our first use of these passes came this weekend when we visited Beeston Castle for their Clash of Knights event. The ticket for this event (as an English Heritage member) was £5.10 for the four of us. (Admission would have been around £24.00 without our passes). I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable days of the year!
Located in Cheshire, close to Chester, Beeston castle itself is little more than a ruin, but a ruin with a lot of history. It was built in the thirteenth century and has seen its fair share of conflict, abandonment and repairs. The castle lies on top of a hill and is quite a climb.
My daughters and I ascended the hill and were not disappointed when we reached the top. The views are impressive, one can see some 20 miles across the Cheshire and Welsh landscapes.
The castle is surrounded by a beautiful woodland which is wonderful for children to explore. (Look out for future posts on the history of Beeston Castle itself).
Clash of Knights!
The Clash of Knights forms part of a series of events held by the English Heritage this summer. These events are performed by some excellent re-en actors who really create a medieval atmosphere. All activities are held at the bottom of the hill upon which the castle sits, so there was no climbing involved! The day began at 11.00 am with some medieval music to set the tone of the day. The Knight’s Archery competition followed at 11.30 am and story-telling was held at 12.00. The main and most exciting activities began at 12.30 pm with the Arming of the Knight followed by a close combat demonstration. This event was held in the main area of field, a large section roped off. The public sat around this area on deck chairs they had brought, or, like us, a picnic blanket. Fellow knights dressed one knight demonstrating the amount of kit these warriors wore and how much preparation went into getting ready for battle.
At 1.00 pm the Crest Melee began. This was the first melee of the day and involved the four teams – red, blue, gold and green all fighting for first place.
We had purchased a gold flag at the beginning of the day thus choosing which team we would cheer for.
Two of the teams took to the field – first were the reds and blues. The object of the ‘game’ (as explained to us by the re-enactors) was for one team to remove the crest off the helmet of the crest bearer on the opposing team. The knights chased each other on the battlefield as each tried to remove the crest from the opposing team using batons. This resulted in a lot of sliding, falling and probable bruising! The reds were the victors. Then followed the green and gold teams. The greens won. The blues and gold teams then battled it out to decide who would be in 3rd (gold) and 4th (green) place. Then the final match was fought between the reds and blues. This led to a red victory. The Crest Melee was fantastic family entertainment as the audience were really encouraged to participate by cheering for their favourite team. Children as well as adults cheered and jeered and got into the spirit of the event.
Following the Crest Melee my daughter Aurelia tried her hand at jousting.
There were various tents set up around the field displaying armour and medieval accessories.
The main event of the day was the Grand Melee held at 3.30 pm. We found a spot with a fantastic view and settled down on our picnic blanket for the climax of the day.
Rather than two teams battling on the field, the Grand Melee saw all teams on the field at once each trying to remove the crest of the three opposing teams.
Again, audience participation created an exciting atmosphere. This time the blues lost, the red team was in 3rd place, gold in 2nd and greens won the event. This event concluded at 4pm and although storytelling and medieval music were to follow, we headed home feeling truly entertained.
We will certainly be attending another of these events this summer as they are fantastic family entertainment. Both my children got involved with the days events and were exhausted by the end of the afternoon.