Thanks to the English Heritage, we were not short of ideas for family fun this bank holiday weekend. Trying to narrow our options down was difficult. In the end, we decided to visit Beeston Castle to watch their event: Joust! Tournament and Melee. We have visited Beeston Castle a number of times for family events, so we knew that we would not be disappointed. See my post on Beeston Castle to find out more about the site itself.
Joust! Tournament and Melee.
The day was packed with different activities to keep adults and children entertained. We arrived in time to see ‘Napple on the Numbskull’. This involved the ‘fool’ attempting a variety of tricks whilst on stilts. The children were highly involved and entertained with this display as this incredible performer invited the audience to attempt to throw an apple into the basket set upon his head whilst he walked on stilts.
Junior Jousting and Children’s Melee
Aurelia (Aurelia the Princess Knight as we often call her) loves getting involved in these events. Every year, she tries her hand at Junior Jousting. This is a wonderful small tilt yard, manned by an incredibly friendly and enthusiastic instructor. The children set off on a wooden hobby horse and try to hit the target with their lance.
This incredibly energetic instructor then invited the children to take part in a children’s melee. This involved children ‘fighting’ each other with foam swords and shields. In fact, the children did not fight amongst themselves, rather they all went after their instructor!
One of my favourite parts of these events is undoubtedly the medieval falconry displays. This is a rare opportunity to get close to a range of beautiful hunting birds and to see them in action.
Firstly we saw the falcon in flight. A full and fascinating explanation of the falcon as a medieval hunting bird was given.
Then an adorable kestrel was shown to us as its handler explained its function. In by-gone days, the kestrel was a ‘training bird’, enabling adolescents to become accustomed to bird handling before they were permitted to hunt with a falcon.
Finally we were introduced to a most majestic eagle and witnessed its remarkable wing span as it took flight.
The Joust and Melee
With preparations made, the main event, the joust began. It was a beautiful sunny day and the back drop of the glorious sunshine and the hills of Cheshire provided the perfect setting for this entertaining spectacle.
Firstly we were introduced to the knights and encouraged to cheer for our favourite. Aurelia had bought a red flag from the gift shop which dictated our choice, Sir Steven. To our surprise (and delight) the green knight was a female knight, Lady Lisa. This was her first jousting season with English Heritage and she did remarkable well!
The knights took to their corners and the joust began.
Following the joust, the knights demonstrated what a 13th century melee would have looked like. The knights, still on horseback, drew their swords and fought each other (although, fortunately, no blood was actually shed). The crowd decided the winner based upon the performance of each knight. Lady Lisa won the day, not simply because of her obvious popularity as an anomalous woman in this sport, but for her remarkable skills on the field. I’m sure she will inspire other women to take up this pastime!
Beeston Castle is set in a stunning location, high atop a hill with the most breath-taking views. Also, events are held here throughout the year and are always incredibly entertaining as well as educational. These events are consistently well attended which simply enhances the atmosphere. All re-enactors are always extremely friendly and fabulous around children. They always have time to stop and pose for photographs!
For the 4 of us (2 adults and 2 children) the event cost a mere £7.80 as we are English Heritage members. Of course, the castle and the grounds are also open and available to explore.
For more information on English Heritage events, click here for details. Follow our adventures throughout the summer as we explore more of the UK with English Heritage.