King Harold Day a huge success again – and the link to our photos is below

The eighth King Harold Day was held on 8th October, and was highly Saebert's Folcsuccessful again despite rain on-and-off during the afternoon.   It was not enough to keep people away, or stop them enjoying the various attractions.   We had roughly the same number of visitors as the previous year, well over 6,000, and there were queues at the entrance.

This year our re-enactors were from the Viking period, and our new re-enactment group, Saebert’s Folc, put on a superb display for us.   They set up a Viking village camp, which was particularly interesting because, as a strongly family-orientated group, there were several young enactors present.   And their two sessions in the Arena were thrilling fights using broadswords, axes and lances.   We had a second re-enactment group, which was a last minute surprise.  Ben Perkins of Barebow Archery is moving to Waltham Abbey, and asked if he could have a pitch to demonstrate the fine hand-made longbows and warbows he makes, and he offered to put on an archery display in the Arena as well.

Richard and Elizabeth York, who delighted children and adults alike last year, once again brought their beautiful medieval music to the Abbey Gardens, and soon had the audience trying out the instruments.   Chingford Morris danced and performed the Mummers’ Play, and an added attraction was a side of four female dancers.   PL Falconry’s splendid birds of prey were as popular as ever, and were flown from the Arena giving some young visitors the thrill of having a bird return to their gloved hand.

The Black Raven Knight was with us on his magnificent black horse, Beau.   Annette Banks brought along her amazing embroidery of the Bayeux Tapestry, which took her more than twenty years to make, and has a special section on Waltham Abbey.   Unfortunately, this was one thing that was affected by the rain, as it is much too precious to be allowed to get wet, so Annette and her family had to scurry around with sheets of plastic and finally decided they would have to call it a day.

Lee Valley Park was well represented with not just its information unit, but the Youth and Schools team providing drawing and colouring activities for children, and the very popular traditional apple press, worked by the team from LVRPA.   They had earlier picked a variety of apples from the Abbey’s own orchard, and visitors could have a go at the apple press, requiring quite a bit of muscle, and then the delicious apple juice produced was available for everyone to sample.

Lee Valley Park Farms had brought along a number of small animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs, and chickens.   Visitors enjoyed getting close to the animals, as they did to the ones brought along by Jenny Wackett.   Jenny takes care of injured wild animals, or young ones abandoned by their mothers, and had brought a fox and several birds.   Pebadale Apiaries had brought bees in an observation hive, which were fascinating to watch.

The Waltham Abbey Schools’ Art Exhibition was in the Abbey’s Lady Chapel, with outstanding work by the children of Hillhouse Primary School, Leverton Infant & Nursery School, Upshire Primary School, and Waltham Holy Cross Infant School.   Grenville Weltch offered two tours of the Abbey Church, which were well attended, and Barbara Utting demonstrated traditional bread making.   The excellent Music for Lunch Concert, arranged by the Abbey’s Director of Music, Stephen Bullamore, featured Richard Brain (tenor) and Kate Macpherson (piano) with a programme of “Regal Music for King Harold Day”.

The craft stalls were busy all day, as was the have-a-go archery provided by Epping Archers which always has queues.

At noon, the costumed performers and traders and the special guests gathered outside Epping Forest District Museum in Sun Street, and formed a procession, led by Waltham Abbey’s Town Crier Peter Frost, through the town centre to the Harold Memorial Stone in the Abbey Churchyard.   There a ceremony took place when flowers were placed on the Stone by the Chairman of Epping Forest District Council, Cllr Ken Angold-Stephens;  the Mayor of Waltham Abbey, Cllr Antony Watts; and Mrs Jean Church, Vice Chairman of Waltham Abbey Historical Society.   Mrs Angold-Stephens was also present, together with Mrs Eleanor Laing MP and her son, Matthew.   A guard of honour was formed by Waltham Cross Detachment, Army Cadet Force.   Helen Hollick, author of a number of novels including “Harold the King”, then spoke about why King Harold II, as the last Anglo Saxon King, was such an important historical figure.   The Rev’d Peter Smith, Rector of Waltham Abbey, spoke at the close of the ceremony, and the Rev’d Rod Reid was also present.

So a successful and enjoyable day all round, with many of the visitors commenting on the lovely atmosphere of the event.

In 2012 King Harold Day will be on Saturday 13th October, when we hope to see many of our visitors again as well as newcomers to the event, and until then you can enjoy a selection of photographs of King Harold Day 2011, taken by our official photographer, Jonathan Foster, which can be found on Flickr by clicking here.