Medieval Tournament week at Arundel Castle took place this year from 22nd to 27th July and is just one of the many special events run by Arundel Castle through their visiting season which runs from 1st April to 2nd November 2014.
I had heard good things about the Jousting tournament week, from one of the boys fencing Mum’s who said that they go every year, and I will confess to being more than a little excited to be going. When Mary from Over 40 and a Mum to One said that she was coming to Bognor for an event, a plan was formed and we picked Friday to go and find out more.
Mary and Monkey had told us all about the Jousting they have seen at Blenheim Palace, and the boy and I were even more excited to see what all the fuss was about. We were not disappointed, after the very short drive, we parked in The Mill car park. (Arundel can get very busy in the summer, so parking can be a real problem. Arrive early and the Mill Car Park opposite the castle is a reasonable £5 for the whole day). A quick walk across the road, we headed to the gate to collect our tickets and on into the castle grounds.
Arundel Castle is set high above the surrounding countryside, and the views as you drive in towards the town are beautiful, but as you enter the grounds of Arundel Castle, you are still taken aback with the size and splendour of the 11th Century castle. We didn’t have to walk far before we realised that we were on the lower lawn where the jousting takes place, with the first joust of the day, we picked our spot lay out a rug and waited.
The jousting itself takes place three times each day, with a slightly different format each time. There are four teams to cheer on, with some very different characters, and magnificent horses. While the commentary was given clearly through a pa system, nothing was missed. Of course the boy chose to cheer on England while I just chose to cheer whenever I could. Both boys were transfixed and despite the day starting to heat up as well as the battles, we enjoyed the demonstrations of skill and horsemanship. I just kept wondering how on earth they were still riding in full armour in the heat with 70lb of armour, as I was melting sitting on a rug!
We were treated to amazing displays of skill, all demonstrating beautifully just what was expected of a medieval knight, resusatating the poor dummy who had a nasty blow to the head made us all chuckle. With a whole camp to walk round, tents to admire we didn’t leave the lower lawn till lunchtime. Heading into the Encampment area, you are taken back completely in every way to a medieval camp. With so many people all in costume, it is like the whole castle has been transported back in time.
While Mary and I were seeking shade, Monkey and the Boy were keen to watch the weapons demonstration, with swords and more costumes, we were all encouraged to cheer on our favourites. We all needed some lunch and after a quick picnic, and some strange tree climbing from the boy. We headed towards the castle entrance this time distracted by the story-teller, with his tale of George and the Dragon. Members of the public form the cast, and the peasant hat game fun was a giggle to watch. I think the mums enjoyed the shady story as much as the boys did.
Before we knew it was time for the next joust, and the boys didn’t want to miss it, so back the way we came this time we had a different viewing angle. With all four teams, England, Poland, France and the Burgundian Alliance competing to win not just that days matches, but score and win the weeks tournament, there was plenty to get excited about. If like the boy and me you have never seen jousting, you are in for a treat as it was full on, fast and had plenty of thrills. I didn’t think anything to rival watching the boy fencing, but jousting is now up there on my list of exciting new sports!
By the end of another very hot jousting session, and England clinging onto their lead in the competition, we were all keen for something cool. Ice cream was the answer, and the Castle has a very nice restaurant and coffee shop. After a quick regroup, Mary and Monkey decided to explore different parts of the castle, while the boy wanted to have a go at archery (ages 8+) so we agreed to meet for the last joust of the day a bit later.
Walking through the grounds you get a feel for the size of Arundel Castle, and the archery tucked up near the Fitzalan Chapel was the perfect activity for the sporty boy. I decided that if I had to queue up as well I had better give it a try. It was great fun, and while some people made it look easy, I found that only one arrow hit my target. The boy after a change of hands, as he cant shut one eye at a time? was a little wobbly. He did still enjoy the archery and if there hadn’t been a long queue would have liked a second go. As the wind had picked up and black clouds were looking ominous over the castle keep, we headed back past the entrance, for the last jousting match of the day.
The boy had bumped into his fencing friend B and the two of them were mock fighting their way down the hill. Mary and Monkey were waiting for us, and as we took up our spot under a tree the rain set in. Despite the cold rain, we stayed till the last fight had been won by France, before saying our goodbyes and heading home.
When I look for days out, I find myself looking to other counties, Arundel Castle has given us the most fantastic day out on our doorstep. I think I loved the jousting more than the boy, and the elegant and amazing horses, costumes and even smells coming from the encampment transported me back 100’s of years in time. It made the whole day something I know I will remember for a long time. We didn’t get time to see inside the castle, so will have to make sure we come back another day, and I will definitely be putting the jousting week in my diary for next year.
Arundel Castle prices vary so it is best to visit their website, but start from £9.00 upwards to £19.80 for an adult depending on which parts of the castle you want to see. We were given a family gold+ pass to visit the castle during jousting week and this would cost a family £49.50 which covers up to 2 adults and 3 children (children under 5 are free). I think that Arundel Castle was a much better day out than I had expected, there was certainly plenty for all ages. Even thought the boy has been to Arundel Castle recently with school, he still learnt something new and there are some great special events coming up including Pirates and Smugglers days.