Posted: 9/5/2010


       St. Wilfrid's Church in the pretty village of Burnsall was built in the 12th Century and has lots of Viking stones and hogsback tombs that have been dug up in past 'digs'. It is on the winding River Wharfe  and next door to The Elizabethan School, founded by Sir William Craven as a Grammar School. He was born two miles away in Appletreewick and made his fortune in London, generously endowed the chuch, built roads and four bridges.

      Burnsall, the prettiest of all the Yorkshire Dales villages is having  a Viking Festival this weekend on the village green. Warriors of Jorvik Vikings who raided the east coast after the death of their King Eric Bloodaxe,, sailed up river to capture York, and then spread out. There is an encampement with whole familes dressed the part and re-enacting the Viking way of daily life.

     We are treated to battles between Vikings and Normans who took over the country in 1066 at The Battle of Hastings, demonstrations of weaponry, a hog roast, killed in the surrounding Forest of Barden and Samba drum music, which originates in North-East Brazil with roots in African traditional music. The 20 drummers are from the Batala Company who recently played at the Notting Hill Festival.

   There is a huge wooden Wicker Man and the launch and burning of a Viking ship. You may remember the 1973 classic cult film, The Wicker Man, starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland, which has a terrible climax. One fun competition is the Coracle races. These are lightweight, round, wooden, one man boats from Wales covered in skins.  The ship has been decorated by local children with colourful wooden shields, and as the fire ship is launched on baord is the body of a warrior, slain during a bloody skirmish.

    Entertaining throughout is the Grasington based Penny Plain Theatre Company in the guise of 'Hardcastle's Mighty Excelsior Theatre Company'. They show the misadventures and mishaps of a group of down and out players trying to stage some dramatic offerings. Loads of fun and great acting, folk songs, dances and a mummers play, traced back to nearby Linton-in-Craven.

    All around the hillsides the black face sheep and dairy cows are oblivious to the celebratins, munching on grass in the drystone walled fields. Next to the ancient bridge by the green is the Red Lion pub and manor house. There was a wedding in the church and then a reception in the hotel grounds by the river, after which the bride in all white and the groom in Scottish kilt and attire is chased over the hump backed bridge by and army of Vikings in battle regalia.