Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Amlwch Viking Festival

Today has seen the beginning of two days when Amlwch is invaded by Vikings. The festival is organised every two years and attracts crowds of people to see re-enactments of beach landings, battles, and a Viking boat burning.

The weather was excellent and the ground on the display field underfoot was very dry. This is a good foundation for any well organised event because they are the two factors over which there is no control.

Pauline and I went over to Moelfre to see the first re-enactment of a beach landing by a group of Vikings from Ireland. The beach was fenced off for the safety of the crowds and the local lifeboat was on hand in case of any seaborn emergency. A few minutes past 10.00am the word came that two Viking ships had been spotted near the lifeboat station. A few minutes later they came into view and were greeted by a great boo from the crowds. Soon their ships grounded on the shingle of Moelfre beach and the warriors lept out onto dry land. The local forces knew they were coming and had grouped their women on the beach as bait to lure the ships to shore. Then the battle began.

The two sides, armed with swords and shields, set into each other with a will and the noise of steel on shield was very loud. It was not long before there were many bodies lying on the beach, most of them Vikings. The local Anglesey men has overcome the invaders and those who could still walk were heading back to sea in their longships.

In the afternoon on Madyn Field in Amlwch there was a Viking encampment with stalls showing the visitors ancient arts and crafts. In addition there was a large arena prepared for a battle re-enactment and a smaller one where the Gwynedd Axemen showed their abilities. The latter was a competition involving wood cutting. Logs of wood were set up for the competitors to show their felling prowess. Following this horizontal logs had to be cut through. The competitors were graded according to ability with the best man handicapped to a count of 30 before he could begin.

They carried axes which were incredibly sharp. I imagine there is an art in sharpening a woodman's axe because the axes went through a great thickness of timber. First to finish by a long way was Daffyd who cut through his log as if it were a twig. It didn't seem to be any efforet at all. But he was, after all, a champion woodsman in competitions all over Wales! Eventually all six logs were cut in half and the crowd gave the men a shout of encouragement.

We then moved to the main arena to see the Welsh forces repell a hoard of Vikings seeking to take over their fort. A pallisade had been built, giving the local warriors some protection from invaders. Through the gate came a line of Welshman, following their Prince to view his lands. Then some of the remaining villagers came out to work in their fields. The hidden Vikings lept out and captured these to use them as a human shield against the Welshmen. A battle ensued with no one the winner so both sides decided to discuss what should happen next. The Vikings were invited to lay down their weapons and accept Welsh hospitality but they had a preference for capturing the entire village and its fields for hospitality of a permanent nature.

The talks got nowhere and so another battle was fought. Next the warriors were called to return to their units where they surrounded their own particular banner. The next ploy was to invite a champion from each army to fight it out and decide the winners on the outcome of their fight. This was fine until 2 Vikings approached to help out their champion. Their move was seen and the response was all out battle with the Welsh the ultimate winners.

It was excellent to see such an event staged in the small town of Amlwch. Tonight we shall be going down to Amlwch Port for the ceremony of the Viking boat burning after dark. Tomorrow I shall entertain you with details of this great event which is due to end with a fireworks display.
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