St. George's Day 2013

English Traditions at Westley Heights

St George’s day was celebrated on Sunday afternoon 21st April, which also happened to be the Queen’s 87th birthday.  This new event was organised by Langdon Hills Country Park which is run by Thurrock Council.   A large marquee had been erected to house about eight stands.  The Laindon Archive’s stand was at the far end, close to the area where the Morris Dancers would be performing. 

At 11:30 Ken Porter, Sue Ranfold, Colin and Nina Humphrey arrived.   The boards were placed on the tables and arranged to allow maximum viewing accessibility.  Finishing touches were added to all the stalls and I must say the stuffed ‘badger’ on the stall directly opposite ours looked remarkably lifelike.  We were then treated to the first of several typical English traditions – a cup of tea, albeit in cardboard beakers rather than bone china, but nevertheless delicious and very welcome.

Many people took advantage of the lovely sunny day and were soon wandering around. discovering what was on offer.  Wood carving and other country crafts, information on Nordic Walking and Rambling, the Badger sets of Langdon Hills,  Dry Street Preservation, The Laindon Archive’s wonderful display of photographs and at 1:30 the first performance of the ‘Hands Around’ ladies Morris dancing team.  Six ladies of varying ages dressed in black, bright orange, yellow and white cloaks, black hats trimmed with feathers and flowers and bells around their ankles pranced and skipped most pleasingly to ‘In an English Country Garden’ played by their musicians on drum, banjo and accordions.  For their second number they used sticks which they tapped together in rhythm.  Their third dance involved orange dusters which they flicked about as they skipped around.  They finished the session by getting about a dozen of the audience to join in with them (including us).  We laughed a lot as we swung our partners round and round and then promenaded back to our positions.

A little later, Ann and John Rugg arrived.   As always, the Archive stand drew lots of attention and had a steady flow of visitors despite the various walks and talks that were taking place.  Next, ‘Hands Around’ enthusiastically performed a Mummers Play despite the fact that even the actors didn’t seem to understand what it was all about any more than we did.  However, lack of understanding certainly didn’t spoil the fun.  The ‘story’, delivered loudly to the audience in rhyming sentences, included some curious characters, including a gallant Knight and a Father Christmas.  The play ended with the actors demanding loud cheers from the audience.  We were more than happy to oblige.      

Ken Porter’s 15 minute talk on ‘The Prisoner of War Camp’ was very popular.  The benches that had been placed in front of our stand, quickly filled up and the subject brought forth some questions and interesting discussions that could probably have gone on for much longer than the allotted time.

The sound of a chainsaw and a lovely aroma of sawdust came from a little further along from the marquee, where woodcraft was on show including some rustic furniture such as garden chairs.  Wooden objects in various shapes were available for children to paint.  In fact there was something for everyone.

At 3:30 everyone gathered round for the last session of Morris Dancing.  It was lovely to see so many happy smiling faces enjoying some fun in the sun after such a long murky winter.  As we packed things away, we noticed only a few copies of our  ‘walks programme’ were left, so hopefully we will see a few familiar faces again later in the coming months.   After such a success, I’m sure there will be plans to repeat the event next year.  I heard just one small criticism.  A young chap mentioned it was a pity there hadn’t been any food available.  Maybe that could be a consideration for next year – a Hog Roast may be!!!  Or should ‘roast dragon’ be on the menu for St George’s day?     

Hands Around ladies Morris Dancing Team
Nina Humphrey
Some interesting shadows!
Nina Humphrey
Full house for Ken's talk.
Colin Humphrey
Listening carefully.
Colin Humphrey
Well done England.
Nina Humphrey
Inside the marquee
Nina Humphrey

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