Going out: History Live! 2014

Going out: History Live! 2014

We weren't sure what to expect from History Live!, English Heritage's flagship annual event. Though it has a larger-than-life reputation for historic fun in the Northants countryside, when we arrived the sky was grey and I was wearing sandals (I thought it only fair I got into the Roman spirit of things).

As an outdoor event, showcasing over 2,000 years of British history from the Roman period to the Second World War, the weather could have marred the day. But the parking was well organised and there was a significantly long queue forming at the gate, so we weren't going to fall at the first hurdle. Dutifully we joined the line, in hoods and waterproofs - just in case.

While the crowd waited patiently, a jester in Medieval costume sprang up and down, telling jokes and warming us up. And all day, everyone was so friendly. There was a real community feel, regardless of age or your particular historical interests. As long as you had a brolly, or wellies, there was no reason not to continue.

And continue we did. There was a highly entertaining Gladiator Battle, narrated by a charismatic frontman so we knew exactly what was going on, followed by a Trebuchet and Crossbow display from various weapons through the ages.

A re-enactment of a battle from the Dark Ages brought a staggering number of well-dressed horses and knights to the field, brandishing spears and shields. It all felt very real, and the performers' dedication was rousing. From young, wide-eyed youngsters to the oldest of couples, we all watched agog.

When the rain got too much, we hurried into the bar tent - to watch the brass band, who were set up at the far end! And there was also the shopping tent, where you could try all manner of jams and chutneys, and peruse the English Heritage-themed fayre. We were very taken by the ginger wine.

A final break in the clouds allowed us to walk around the main 'camp', where many tents were pitched, and costumed vendors were selling jewellery, handmade shoes, local honey, historical memorabilia and period clothing. There were also plenty of decent food stalls and the portable loos on site were of a good standard, with barely any wait.

Ironically the Sunday was much better weather, so visitors that day were also treated to a falconry display.

All in all: a day for couples, families, and anyone who wants to know more about our history - you might well end up pleasantly surprised.

History Live! is an annual weekend event, taking place at Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire: www.english-heritage.org.uk

If this sounds like fun, keep your eyes and ears peeled for further information on October's Battle of Hastings

Pics © English Heritage