Monday, July 22, 2013

Berkeley Castle and the Mediaeval Baebes


A dream was realised on the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd of July, 2006. I got to see the Mediaeval Baebes, my favourite group, perform at the Berkeley Castle Joust in Gloucestershire. Not only that, I got to see one of the most beautiful Castles in the West. I have since discovered that my ancestors are from this area. I have very fond memories of this time in England, even though I was a little uncomfortable with my company where I was staying at the time.

Jul. 24th, 2006 at 9:41 PM

No traffic in Cambridge - feet only!
jackdaw in forest
I had planned to meet my friend Anne in Oxford, and booked a train ticket for it, but the day before the trip, I heard from Anne who emailed me telling me she was staying near Cambridge instead, so I had to change the ticket for Cambridge to meet her there instead. It was Friday and a lovely sunny
day as I got to Cambridge and went into the city for over an hour before meeting Anne who was to pick me up from there. The centre of Cambridge is amazing, I remember wondering why I could hear everyone walking around, and realised that the silence of the centre of Cambridge was due to no traffic being allowed through. It makes it a peaceful place. Back at the train station I found Anne, and we began our journey to Cirencester in the West.
We drove south to the M25 - the London ring road, and got onto the M4. At one point we tried to stop in Reading, but did not find anywhere, and Anne, gave up, driving on to Cirencester. Four hours after leaving Cambridge, we got to Cirencester at about 7pm and booked into our Travelodge and ate at Little Chef. Anne felt terrible as she had not got much sleep, as she had met a lover on her journey.

We went to bed at about 9:30pm - my suggestion, and we slept, or simply rested, for 10 to 11 hours. On the Saturday morning we got up, felt better and ate pancakes at Little Chef. We drove onto Berkeley Castle near the River Severn to go to the Joust. It was another lovely day, overcast, but warm.

And when we turned up, we got very excited. There were bell tents everywhere, banners flags and so much colour, as a medieval fayre should be - not in a dusty, drought like Australia. People were dressed in period costume for the occasion, and it made me want to get back into re-enactment. We met some nice people who explained to us the history of the objects they had - mentioning we were students of medieval history got them worried, but we still don't know everything.

The Mediaeval Baebes
Everything we saw was a feast for the eyes. There were battles going on in a field almost all the time, some birds of prey on display and a joust was being shown at different times throughout the day.

Then the Mediaeval Baebes first performance was to be at 1.20, so we got front row to the right. I had to pinch myself often when I realised where I was and what I was about to witness. They wore mauve and they sang fantastically. It was so good to finally see them. I took a lot of photos and filmed a lot of songs, and when they finished their set, they told us that they are performing again at 5pm, all with a new set of songs. As soon as they got off stage, they sat down to do some book/cd signing, so we all queued up and I got out my songbook
which I had brought with me all the way from Australia and they all signed it, Anne bought a songbook there and got that
signed. I then got them to sign a postcard for Gemma, for all that she's done for me in the past few weeks, its the least I can do. Then I approached Marie Findley, the 'witty' one of the Baebes. I asked her to sign a post card for a friend of mine back home who loved the Ken Russell movie that she was in. She found that rather humorous.

signing my songbook
We saw falconry, archery demonstrations, and went for a tour in the castle. The courtyard is amazing, and we could not take pictures inside. The Castle is in such a lovely situation and the garden surrounding it is gorgeous! One of the bedrooms really struck me - it was such a romantic medieval style bedroom, exactly how you would expect a lovely bedroom to be. It was such I shame I could not take a picture of it. The interior of the Castle was the most beautiful I have ever seen, probably what everyone expects a lovely Castle to look like.

Courtyard of the Castle
We walked around the garden and enjoyed a drink and scones, before we made our way down to the stage again to watch the Baebes sing again, this time dressed in white and with a new set
of songs. We sat further away up the back. Their song 'How death comes' really hypnotised me, it was their dances and movements that did it. I was quite transfixed.

The Baebes in white
After a while, the day ended at 6pm and we moved our car from the event car park, which was in a field, to the public car park of the Castle. Anne had booked tickets for us to go to the Banquet feast and got a free glass of Mead, then watched a medieval dance group do some fantastic dances. We had front row view of the whole feast, will a prefect view to watch the entertainment that night, and to see the Baebes sing again. I let Anne sit front row. The food was great and so was the entertainment - all dressed 
as lords, there was an MC going by the name of Sir William, and two lords representing Lancashire and Yorkshire - the War of the Roses. And then there was Devilstick Peat the Fool in red and yellow, who juggled, did amazing tricks, and generally made us laugh.

The Baebes came into the tent before the second course. They wore their mauve again. They sang some of the same songs from that day - and they were fantastic. I thought it was great that I got to see them perform three times in one day.

Entertainers posing for my camera
The dessert comprised of jelly in a Castle mould shape. There were even fortune tellers going around the room, giving people readings - one who visited us was a geomancer.
The evening was very enjoyable, we were well fed and entertained - it was worth every penny.

I've been to many a medieval feast in my time, but nothing like one at a real Castle. Looking forward to visiting Berkeley Castle again one day. The Joust held at Berkeley has been cancelled since. I
believe the 2007 event was a wash out (cancelled due to floods - Devilstick Peat told me that 2 years later), so I was lucky that I went the year I did.

The Feasting Marquee
A dress on display


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