Last weekend’s plan should have been very simple. Go to re-enactment event at Basing House, Hampshire on Friday afternoon. Return home from said event on Monday afternoon, tired, probably soggy but having had a lot of fun. Turns out, that’s not quite what happened.
I spent Friday morning being lazier than I should have been and taking far longer than I should have done to get ready and pack the car. To be honest, the weekend all started going slowly awry from the point that I was dragged down the stairs from top to bottom by my own kit bag…
Anyway, I finally got in the car about 1:30 and set off towards Hampshire. The weather, I have to say, was pretty dire but we’re rainy day campers on the regular so although it wasn’t pleasant, I wasn’t too worried. I navigated the M25 and only had to put my handbrake on once! There were a few bits of crawling traffic, mainly because of the weather but I got to Basingstoke unscathed and arrived at the site to find it was closed to vehicles because it was already too muddy! My parents had arrived about an hour before and had managed to get their caravan towed on by someone else’s 4×4 and their car was parked up in the car park near the site entrance.
I had the option of going round to the other campsite at the back of Basing House itself, about a 10 minute walk away but as we were sharing some of our meals and camping stuff with my parents, I took the other alternative and parked back out on the road. This meant my car wasn’t stuck on site but it did mean having to carry all our stuff through the strip of woodland between the road and the site. It was better than nothing and once you were actually on site, the rest of the site wasn’t so bad. It was wet, don’t get me wrong, but apart from the bit leading through to the gap in the trees, it wasn’t totally muddy. It didn’t stay this way very long, let me tell you.
I guess you can say that Basing 2018 was ‘going well’ already and it was only 4pm on the Friday. Aidan was on the train on the way here and had already agreed with my parents who were messaging whilst I was still on the way, it would be best for him to taxi from the station to the site as if I had managed to get my car on, I sure as hell wouldn’t have been getting it back off again.
It’s a good job he decided this because not long after starting to get stuff out of the car and making a start on putting up the tent it became very apparent that my car was going to be needed and I was very lucky to have parked on the road.
Standing in the getting-progressivley-heavier rain with my parents with the tent laid out on the ground, it turned out I had the tent… but no tent poles. Absolute rooky error and over the course of the weekend I discovered that I really hadn’t packed well. You could definitely tell it and been a few months since we’d done an event!
After some mild panic, attempts at pragmatic thinking and a lot of swearing, Mum and I got in the car and headed to the local Go Outdoors. We tend to go there every year and pick up things like gas for stoves and other bits and pieces as we realise what’s disintegrated over the winter or we got rid of last year but hadn’t yet replaced. This was the first time that I’d had to go there for a whole new tent though! Never mind. We found a really good little tent that will probably become our go-to now.
Until recently, tent companies seemed to think that if there was only a couple of you in a tent, you really wouldn’t want one that was full height so the past few years Aidan and I have been in a tent intended for 5 people, just to find something reasonable we could comfortably stand up in. Much needed for us to have the height (well, Aidan really, anyone who knows me personally knows I’m not blessed with height) but totally overkill and space hogging on smaller re-enactment sites where camping space is cozy to say the least. This time though, I managed to get this Hi Gear Aura Elite 3. Small enough for only two people, but still tall enough for said two people to stand up and not feel like they’re in some kind of coffin. Perfect. It held up all weekend so totally recommended for anyone who may be on the look out for a new tent.
Back to the campsite, Aidan arrived from the station and eventually we got the new tent up and everything sorted. After much needed hot drinks in my parents caravan, I called my friends who’d managed to get onto the other campsite before that too was shut (I’m not kidding, both campsites were both closed to vehicles before 7pm on Day 1! It was mad!) and agreed to go and meet them at the local Wetherspoons in town for dinner and somewhere warm to stay for a couple of hours.
We headed back to the site after dinner and down to The Bloody Barn, the 17th Century barn that’s across the road from Basing House and where this year for the first time, our beer tent providers The Stagger Inn had been allowed to set up a bar inside. The Beer barn was excellent. There isn’t usually a beer tent at all at Basing, just an overpriced pub at the end of the campsite that most people went to more begrudgingly than willingly because it provided warmth.
I can’t say the barn provided warmth, that would be a total lie but it did provide shelter and good, not overpriced beers and ciders. The only downside was they weren’t allowed to stay open too late due to agreements with the council who run the site and therefore we went for one final drink at the pub before bed.
Saturday was still grey but not raining quite so much so we made attempts to get a fire going in my parents new fire pit, ready for cooking lunches etc. After quite a lot of hard work, we had a fire going and managed to successfully cook bacon rolls (or baps/breadcaskes/teacakes ((wtf?!))/cobs/barmcakes, we had that argument, at length) for breakfast and re-heat the pre-made lunch along with some extra snacks from Tesco. For most of the morning and early afternoon the worst we had was a bit of drizzle so we enjoyed sitting round the fire, day drinking and laughing a lot. It was Aidan’s regiment who were on the entrance gate at this point and he did his stint with our friend Jake mid-afternoon. They had these guys for company.
Mid-afternoon though the rain came back and we all piled into my parent’s caravan (thanks, Parents!). By this point we’d also found out it was highly likely the site would be closing completely at the end of the day on Sunday so with too much food between us all and only that night left to eat it, the 8 of us squeezed into the caravan for more drinking and an excellent caravan barbecue! Much food was eaten, even more wine and beer was drunk.
Eventually, when the rain eased off we headed down to join the rest of the people from our regiments at the Beer barn again. People sloped off at various times and the last couple of us remained up until an ungodly time with friends in other regiments around their fire drinking too much port and gin and generally having a bloody good time!
Battle day arrived and the weather started to improve. It was also Easter Sunday so a traditional chocolate egg-based breakfast was had before getting ready to get stuck into the event. Quite a lot more people who lived closer to the event had turned up as day-trippers so it was good to see more friends too. Even the fact our airbed had completely deflated overnight didn’t dampen the excitement for getting back on a field and having a good scrap for the first time in months. It was at this point though that I’d found even more packing fails as I had to borrow shoes, a hat and gloves. Well done Beth, you did really well this weekend.
Photos courtesy of John Beardsworth
The battle was lots of fun and I got to go back onto Artillery for the first time in 3 years. I was a bit rusty but it was good fun and my first opportunity to be part of a mortar crew. It was LOUD and made the crowd jump out of their skin each time. Much much fun.
As predicted, at the end of the battle they decided to completely close the campsite. A wise move as the weather was set to worsen again that night and the following day. A tractor was organised to come and drag all the cars and caravans off and we packed up and headed home. It was a shame to be going but it was the right decision. Luckily, there are a lot of people from the society who live in that part of the world, or close enough to travel back on the following day so the battle was able to still go ahead on the second day as planned.
We have a tradition of naming Basing weekends after a particularly cold one in 2014 got named Basingrad. So, after Basingrad, The Great Fire of Basing, Basingbury (mud, but not as much as this year!) and Basing Del Sol, we headed back from Basomme, muddy but very happy.
For Aidan and I though, we had an unexpected day at home and although we knew we wanted to spend at least some of it relaxing, we took the opportunity for a little day trip. I can now say that I have crossed off 1 of my 101 in 1001 things that I wrote about the other day. 1 down, 100 to go!
Today we headed out to Rotherhithe, on the south bank of the Thames in East London to go to the Brunel Museum. I have always had an interest in Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the incredible feats of engineering he achieved so we headed to the museum to read about the first project he ever did professionally, a project that was initiated by his Dad, Marc Brunel, and went to find out all about the Thames Tunnel.
The Thames Tunnel was the first tunnel under a navigable river in the world and used pioneering technology. Firstly, the use of gravity and the method use to sink the shaft down to form the entrance to the tunnel at the southern end, Rotherhithe, was the first time this method had been used. It was thought up by a Frenchman but Marc Brunel was the first engineer to put it into practise. He then also pioneered shield-driven tunnel building, coming up with the method that is still used for tunnel building
The museum was only little, but it was full of interesting things and information and well worth the hour or so we spent there which was also enhanced by a great talk all about the tunnel by a guide called Jim which was hosted in the event space that’s 30 ft, half way, down the entrance shaft in Rotherhithe.
After finishing off the museum, we headed back on the Overground which is the railway that now uses the Thames Tunnel to Wapping to see the other end of the tunnel and the lovely artworks along the platform that depict the tunnel’s story.
Our final port of call was a lovely independent coffee shop Cinnamon Coffee Shop, just up from Wapping station where we stopped for lunch. The food was lovely and it was a really cosy and friendly little shop. Looking forward to going back again at some point to try the incredible looking cakes!
All in all a great, if a little challenging and unexpected Easter weekend! Now I know what ‘normal’ (I use that term very loosely) people do on Bank Holiday weekends when they’re not mad enough to spend it hungover in a field, pretending to be from a different century!
If for some reason you’ve read this and though ‘you know what, that re-enacting lark sounds really rather good’ (because yes, this post has 100% sold it, HA), then you can find out more about what we do here. Roll on our next event in Bristol at the end of May. I’m crossing every digit for considerably less mud!