Sunday, 5 June 2016

Colchester Medieval and Oyster Fayre

I'd had a visit to Colchester's Medieval Oyster Fayre  in my calendar for some time, and as it's   only  an hour away  I decided to get there  with my  family. Although it's not  sold  as  a bushcraft event I went there to not only enjoy a day out but to see what signs there were of outdoor life/ skills from times gone by. I didn't have to look hard.

The show was well attended both in terms of stalls and punters and we enjoyed it's authentic feel. My only gripe was that three adult and one junior ticket came to £28, and whilst there were 'arena events' to see, it was mainly stands which of course aren't free. 


Even before we entered the park (by a Roman wall) there were two stalls; one was a chainsaw sculpture stand, the other a basket maker, both with impressive work on display. To that end I'm not sure who owned the corracle as it was some way away from both stands. I guess the chainsaw guy didn't make it in as it wasn't a medieval skill, but I'm not sure about the basket maker...Maybe it was the fact that the organisers like period costume worn...


Once in the immediate feeling was of a well organised event and a decent attempt at taking you back in history. So in no particular order there was archery and falconry to see and do which immediately caught my eye as subjects that come under the bushcraft (or outdoor traditionalist) umbrella. Note the archer's period costume.


Many of the stalls I was seeing for the first time but there were a few, like the Identity Store and The Jerky Shack that I've seen at many events such as the bushcraft show. The former sells, as you would expect the expansive A-Z of leather goods and the folk running it are very knowledgable, whilst the shack of course sells jerky, as well as other goods such as jams and fruit leather. I also picked up a bag of Oak shavings from them for smoking (meat of course, not personally!).


Lots of symbols of the ancients and times past were present and this was well illustrated by the runes which where available as both sets and for readings, and a plentiful amount of green man imagery. When I made myself a folding bucksaw I decorated the two upright handles with runic spelling sof indigionous tree species using a bent and heated paperclip.

I noted at least three stands that had either a large amount of wood carving on, or where indeed dedicated wood stands. The three lighter coloured tankards to the left are actually turned Silver Birch with a handle added, a style I've not seen before.

This stall was just fantastic. The guy is working on a medium sized bowl in this picture and earlier the lady was finishing off a huge bowl which was at a guess about a foot-and-a-half wide, and a foot deep, and just look at the size of those spoons in the the barrel. I had a chat with them and said I had a kuksa and some spoons on the go but these two could seriously knock out my projects in their sleep.


And the scent of lavender was noted before being sighted and whilst it isn't a native it has it's part in our past (Piccadilly in London apparently gets it's name from the fact that Lavender ('Dilly') was grown there) and I used it as a key ingredient for this natural insect repellent. Plenty of horns too and this is something Will Lord has done horn courses on in the past and indeed, sells various bits of horn paraphernalia in his online shop.

At lunch time I had no problems sourcing low iron grub, and as it's wristband entry a quite jaunt into the historic town centre for food wasn't a problem. The style of food stalls ranges between very traditional and non-traditional and this ponassed style fish set up over flames caught my eye.

Leatherwork was in evidence, and with the archery stands there it was no surprise to see archery related products stocked. There were also tankards, water containers and more. There is also a catapult in the left hand side picture and the hats are featured because they were felted.


There was, not surprisingly, a lot of ironware being used but it was equally surprising not too many outlets to purchase it from, and indeed no smithy. I was also pleased to spot a slightly larger version of a trivet that I have. It goes without saying that the smell of burning fires does of course add to the whole back in time experience.


Traditional drinks were all over the place. Cider, nettle cordial (see my nettle syrup recipe), mead as well as Elderflower cordial. There are other Elderflower options rather than just making cordial here. I purchased some unpasterised Borage and Chestnut honey from a bee keeper's stand with the view to making mead again but the guy was keen for me not to 'waste' his honey in this way and he gave me a link to an easy to make mead recipe which I shall have to follow up. I'll source some shop honey but use a little of his to give it a nod towards his fine product.

All in all the show was a fantastic visit and really hit the bushcrafty button and more. The best compliment I can pay it is that it kept two teenage sons occupied. I usually pepper a blog page with a few well placed hot links but this one took ages to compose as I decided to try and find a link to lots of the bushcraft references on show. As I mentioned before it is quite expensive for a family, it won't stop me visiting again however it probably won't be every year.  And to finish with, if you know your history you'll know the giggle inducing name of this dagger, click here if not.

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