During the August bank holiday , the Vikings! of Middle England held a battle re-enactment at Rockingham Castle , in Northamptonshire. The Vikings of Middle England are a Leicester based living history group who specialise in Viking Vs Saxon battle’s. Details of the group can be found on their website, Vikings of Middle England, they also have a facebook page.
The venue was the beautiful grounds of Rockingham Castle Northamptonshire, built by William the Conqueror and owned by James Saunders Watson, it has been home to his family for the past 450 years. The gardens are beautifully tended and prior to watching the battle we spent time walking around them. The gardens consist of Formal areas, including the Rose Garden and Cross Garden and the Yew Tree Hedge which allegedly has elephants carved into them, I couldn’t see it myself but maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough!
The Battle Arena was set up on the sloping Green which was a little disorientating , especially when taking photographs, the urge to straighten the horizon was overwhelming for me, but that is just nit-picking on my behalf. Surrounding the arena was a living history village consisting of things that you would find in a typical Viking encampment. Weapon-smiths, Herbalists, Cooks, all the things that a Viking would require for days spent invading countries. The members of the group were engaging to talk to and were happy to spend time explaining the lives of the Vikings to anyone who asked.
My children made a beeline for the weapon tent and were encouraged to try on the (very heavy) armour and weaponry that would have been used buy the Vikings. Without even realising it they were getting educated so from a parents point of view this approach gets a thumbs up from me. The fact that you see, hear and even smell what it was like Viking encampment added to the sense of engagement.
Children were encouraged to sit down and listen to Viking Stories , and I probably enjoyed this just as much, if not more than them!
Then it was time for the main event. The Vikings were invading and the local Saxons were in opposition. The Battle Display was great! The story being narrated over loud speaker so that everyone was kept up to pace with events as they unfolded. The battles themselves are not choreographed and this adds to the element of surprise for the audience and the display is educational without feeling forced. The use of gore and fake blood add to the authenticity. You want to learn more about the time, infact it made me want to go and pick up weapons and be a Viking myself.
Back in 2011 Charlotte Gay of Countryfile.com added the Vikings of Middle England to her Top Ten list of historical re-enactments across the UK coming in at number 3. She states “their main aim is to entertain audiences using as accurate representation of history as possible” and this is apparent with their attention to detail and willingness to engage the audience.
All in all we had an amazing day out, in superb surroundings. I would highly recommend going along to one of the Vikings of Middle England events , who knows, you may even discover the inner Viking in you!