Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bolton Castle Part IV--Archery and Birds of Prey

Bolton Castle provides many wonderful opportunities. Daily demonstrations of archery and birds of prey made our visit even more memorable.

At 10:30 was an archery demonstration in the courtyard. The lady told us about the history of archery and the importance of bowmanship in England. There was a law that every child from age seven to seventeen was entitled to a bow and two arrows from their father so that they could practice archery. Another law stated that the only sport that could be played on Sundays was archery. She asked the crowd if they played any sports on Sundays. Some mentioned football (i.e., soccer if you're American), others rugby. Then she said that these laws have never been taken off the books, so the children should get their parents to cough up a bow and two arrows. And those others who play forbidden sports on Sundays, shame on them. Of course, the Olympics had just started which could have been a problem.

She then demonstrated the proper technique with a long bow, shooting some targets in an isolated corner of the courtyard.

I took this shot before the archery demonstration, but you can see the haystacked corner

Then she asked if any of the children would like a go at shooting the bow. She chose one side to start. That side was our side, so Jacob was the first to try it out!

The lady and I help Jacob get his arrow stringed

He shoots....

He scores!!

Lucy gets ready to shoot

Lucy considers her shot...

Got him in the knee!

Autumn draws down on the villainous haystack

Ready to shoot!

Alas, I don't have a picture of Autumn's shot, but she did well.

The lady also told us about various practices back in the day. The feathers at the end of the arrow are called fletchings. They help the arrow fly straight by helping it spin. When the spinning arrow hits a target (like a human being) it will drill into the person, turning the head around several times inside the target. Removing the arrow becomes difficult, especially when the arrowheads have "exotic" designs.


Another practice was to stick arrows in the ground where the archer would stand, so they'd be easy to pick up and fire at an enemy. An added benefit of dirty arrowheads was that targets would get infections as well as holes. After a battle, they would recover arrows from any dead bodies or other spots they might have landed.

Later on in the morning, the same lady showed some of the birds of prey that are kept at the castle. She first brought out an owl. Owls were used to keep out mice and other vermin.

Snow owl and keeper

She also had one of the hawks, which were used for hunting. He also had a bell on his ankle. In case he ever gets away, he'll be easier to find.

Coming in for a landing

Showing the hawk to us

They both looked magnificent in flight. Later on there was a falcon demonstration we didn't get to see. In the afternoon (i.e. during nap time) they had a wild boar talk and feeding time. That would have been interesting but naps were definitely a higher priority for us.

We loved our visit to Bolton Castle and would definitely recommend it to those visiting the Yorkshire Dales.

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