NINE DAYS WONDER - DAY 9
Naseby to Kelmarsh.
Estimated 14.3 miles Pedometer reading 4.43 miles
Start 07.40 am Finish 9.20 am / 11.10 am
So, we rise from our beds before the lark, before the sun, before, it seems, every sane person on the planet. We leave our lodgings by 6 am and, after a small breakfast and wash, are ready to jig by 7.40. As we make our way through the village, people are rising and coming out of their doors, most of them too bleary eyed to notice us, or too short of time to stop and ask us who we are. We take the road north, past the obelisk marking the decisive battle fought here in 1644. The Parliamentarian troops routed the Royalists and chased them across the countryside as far as Leicester. We decide to limit ourselves to the four miles to journey's end.
As we cross the battlefields by a single-track lane, Nicholas cannot decide between the National Anthem and the 'Keep the Red Flag Flying', he plays both and then settles on 'Kumbya'. All played in the style of an authentic seventeenth century jig. He is a truly talented man if a trifle unsure of his affiliations.
As we crest a small rise in the landscape we catch our first sight of Kelmarsh Hall and the Festival site. It looks to be less than two miles and our hearts lift as a party atmosphere takes us over. Nicholas plays through his whole repertoire and I kick both my feet and leap in the air.
As we celebrate we see a small car coming up the lane with two dogs following on behind. In less than a minute we meet Yvonne and her two pedigree Dalmatians Sigmund and Henry. She is not a psychoanalyst but a fan of Wagnerian Opera. The two dogs are so fast that she cannot keep up with them on foot and they need a good long run every day. We only speak for a few minutes and I forget to ask her her marital status.
On the way up to the Hall we meet first Griff - an old friend from the Knights' Tournament - and his wife. She cannot believe she has seen us on the jig. We are then greeted by the Festival site manager - Des - and his assistant (most definitely not his son apparently) Matt. They saw us on the road through Watford village on Monday and are really welcoming. On the road up the hill we bump into many people arriving to set up the festival and are made to feel quite special.
We stop at the Church of St Denys at Kelmarsh - where we rest and have a drink so that our formal reception can be ready, Can you believe it we are actually early and have to wait. As we do so we meet the local postman who, on Saturday will transform himself into a fierce pillaging Viking. Today he looks quite mild as he clutches the post for the good burghers of Kelmarsh.
Rob Martin - The Knight Marshal at the Knights' Tournament, is dressed in his full armour and has offered to escort us onto site. Unfortunately the instructions of where he will meet us are indistinct and we are sent off to the next entrance where I jig past the welcoming committee and enter the field a hundred yards too high up the hill. We retrace our steps and meet The Knight, now having been stood in his armour in the growing heat of the sun for an hour. This is a little like clothing yourself in tin foil and standing in an oven. I can see the steam rising from his helm as I jig up to him, but he welcomes us in full formality and leads us with ceremonial sword across the festival site.
And then it is over, Rob congratulates us on the stupidity of our venture and various people applaud us and pat us on the back. But suddenly, the complete focus of our last four weeks has finished. Almost exactly four weeks, 114 miles, an uncountable number of hops and skips and we are standing in a field in Northamptonshire. The feeling of elation, which we felt on first sighting Kelmarsh, has faded into a slight feeling of loss. On Saturday, I will jig into the Festival proper as it is populated by thousands of visitors and, no doubt the feelings will change; but for now we slink off the field almost sheepishly, looking for a hot bath and to soak our feet in our own urine.