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Leeds Castle in Maidstone hosts medieval festival

By Claire McWethy

With a clashing of swords and flurry of arrows, Leeds Castle’s medieval festival got underway this weekend.

The sights, sounds and even tastes of a Middle Ages village were brought to life against the backdrop of the 900-year-old castle when the nine-day spectacular began yesterday.

Jousting knights took to their steeds in a battle of horsemanship and combat skills as they negotiated a course, striking targets with lances and swords.

Squires enter for a skills tournament
Squires enter for a skills tournament

Visitors were able to get even closer to the weapons in special sessions where they could dress in full armour and feel the weight of the traditional arms.

And there was a chance to try out the most fearsome of weapon from the Hundred Years War, the Longbow, under expert instruction.

There were also living history camps,with demonstrations of how people lived centuries ago, a medieval market and twice daily falconry displays.

The festival coincides with the most significant exhibition the castle has ever hosted, with items of armour belonging to Henry VIII.

Billy Ponton is ready for battle
Billy Ponton is ready for battle

Two iconic pieces take centre stage – the Horned Helmet, commissioned by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I as a gift for the young king, and the Tonlet armour, which Henry wore at the famed meeting with King Francis I of France at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520.

During the week there are also evening ticketed events including a showing of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves on Sunday, The Princess Bride on Wednesday and a feast which takes place tonight on Friday.

The festival will culminate in a Grand Tournament with authentic jousts next weekend.

Medieval festival at Leeds Castle

The medieval festival at Leeds Castle

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Squires on horseback Spectators prepare to watch a jousting contest Squires enter for a skills tournament Billy Ponton is ready for battle A young warrior over from Holland, takes aim Living history demonstrations Julie Hawkes in the archery competition, from Longbow Heritage Mike Abbey of the Cotsa Camp shows how they lived in medieval times

It runs daily until Sunday, August 31 and tickets cost £24, £21 for concessions and £16 per child, from 01622 880008 or www.themedievalfestival2014.com

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