I spent the last weekend with the members of Regia Anglorum at Castleton helping to put on a show to the public at Peverel Castle, Castleton, Derbyshire, dateline 1080. I managed to grab a few snapshots before we opened to the public (taking photos whilst in kit is forbidden as it detracts from the authenticity...although I did sneak one of Lord William Peverel performing on his destrier!). To the left are a pair of squires preparing to limber up.
It was a glorious day - near perfect weather and the Derbyshire Peaks, including Mam Tor surrounded us in a sheltering bowl. Around 1,200 people visited the site over the weekend.
I was on cooking pot duty on Sunday and chose to make a spicy beef stew. First fry onions and beef in a little fat in the cauldron over a brisk flame. Add plenty of chopped squished garlic. Then add quantities to your taste of cumin, ginger and black pepper. Give it a good stir, add stock or water to cover the ingredients, bring to boiling point, then raise cauldron from the fire to a height where the contents will softly simmer away for a couple of hours. Result, a meltingly tender stew with a superb, almost curry-like flavour. It's a recipe of my own adaptation, but based on existing recipes and a study of various household accounts and pipe rolls (albeit slightly later than 1080). We also dined on a luscious custard tart, courtesy of another Regia member. Sundries included bread and butter (churned on site) and a large bowl of blackberries.
There are several strands to why I find re-enactment so rewarding. There's the vast, multi-layered depth of knowledge posessed by fellow re-enactors, many of whom are historians or archaeologists in their own right. To be among fellow enthusiasts and talk for hours about one's favourite subjects without glazed looks or incomprehension is a joy beyond price. Then there's the thrill of seeing and handling objects and artefacts that are recreated to museum standard. Ah, so this is what it looked/felt like. This is how that object worked. I strongly feel it helps put the '3D' into my writing to have access to this aspect of re-enactment. To wear the clothes, walk the walk and be among others similarly dressed, gives me a sense of atmosphere. This is what it must have been like...or as near as I'm going to get in the 21st century!