“I can’t wait to tell my class that I was chased by a hawk this weekend when I see them on Monday!”
As you might imagine, with that opening gambit, I couldn’t wait to get home from work to find out exactly how M’s classmates responded to the unusual piece of news that he was determined to share today. I suggested that he might want to explain a little more about our weekend adventures rather than just announcing this out-of-the-ordinary occurrence to the world, but knowing M as I do, I fear the finer details might be missing first time round.
Despite suggestions to the contrary, our weekend was, in fact, spent in East Sussex and more specifically, in Battle at the site of the Battle of Hastings. G has been studying the events of 1066 in her History lessons this term and has shown a real interest in learning about the central characters of this Battle. I have a vivid memory of visiting the battlefield with my parents when I was about the same age as G is now and wanted to be able to create a similar experience for both G and M if I could. What better was to learn more about history than by visiting where it actually happened? I started investigating the Hastings area and was delighted to see that last weekend was staging a re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings in advance of the 949th anniversary of the event itself.
Much to my astonishment, we had a weekend free of any other plans, a rare thing indeed in our household and so we planned for a short East Sussex break, where the Battle of Hastings would be brought to life outside of the classroom and hopefully would become even more real in G’s memory. As always when planning a trip with M, I spent most of Friday rushing around from pillar to post in a mad dash attempt to make sure we had packed everything we could conceivably need during our 2 nights away from home. A slight lapse on my part meant that 3 hours were unexpectedly lost to a forgotten hospital appointment for me and another 40 minutes to training up the new school secretary on how to operate M’s pump, but we got there in the end and as soon as school and Stagecoach were finished, we started our pilgrimage to Battle.
We arrived at Battle Abbey slightly ahead of schedule on Saturday morning and I am so glad we got there when we did. A great tip from one of Mike’s work colleagues meant that we had gone prepared with a couple of folding chairs amongst our possessions and we nabbed ourselves front row seats for the rest of the day. We explored the Saxon and Norman camps set up either side of the main arena, treated ourselves to a few trinkets, drinks and snacks and decided which events we wanted to see. We actually didn’t really venture too far away from the main arena itself as the children were fascinated by all that we could see and experience there. Mike was thrilled to be picked to be part of the first Falconry display and remarked on how surprisingly light the bird was as it landed on his arm. The children were enthralled by the impressive weaponry display, which showed the different types of weapons that would have been used by the cavalry and infantrymen of both armies and treated us, in our front row seats, to a frighteningly realistic charge by the opposing sides. For many, the highlight of the day had to be the battle itself, which was acted out in front of us with a mix of live and recorded commentary to talk through and explain the events as they unfolded. I was impressed with G’s understanding of the tactics employed by Duke William’s army and she was able to hold her own afterwards when in discussion with 2 of the men involved in the re-enactment. It was a fantastic day out, the children now both have a greater understanding of this significant historical event and Mike broadened his knowledge of his adopted homeland too!
Oh yes, and M was chased by a hawk, just as he said. Following his in-depth conversation with the Falconry team during the day, they chose him to be part of the second display and gave him the job of dragging the decoy across the field at speed to show how fast and effective the Harris hawk is when it comes to hunting its prey.
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