The wonderful world of Loxwood Joust

Loxwood Joust is an immersive and hugely enjoyable experience which takes you to a medieval playground of cannon-fire, grisly executioners, jousting, battling knights and enchanted woodlands.
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The popular and long-standing event returned to Sussex last weekend (August 5-6) and on a sunny Sunday alone saw thousands of visitors pass through the gates.

A further two days of medieval merriment will take place next weekend on August 12-13, there are a number of additional tickets are currently on sale for both days.

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As a newbie I was immediately impressed by the scale of the festival, a fast-moving queue included a great many people in fantastic costumes, who, underneath flags designed by Year 6 pupils from Cranleigh Prep School, were invited to a jester’s performance by the suitably attired, and marvellously named, Devil Stick Pete.

Loxwood Joust 2023. Photo by Ella StevensLoxwood Joust 2023. Photo by Ella Stevens
Loxwood Joust 2023. Photo by Ella Stevens

He was one of the many performers and medieval reenactors who bring the joust to life and make it such a memorable day.

After passing through the aforementioned enchanted woodland, full of faerie groves and magical wishes, we reached the woodland stage where we were immediately part of the narrative as were learned of Lady Helena’s rebellion against the tyranny of the cruel King Villian.

A rousing speech was delivered in a mix of medieval and modern oratory (“Hail like no-one can see you hailing”) and before we know it we’re all chanting ‘For Loxwood!’ and ready to enjoy the festival, which is marking the King’s first year as ruler.

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It’s an early indication that the performers will play it straight but with a knowing wink and a big dose of fun.

Medieval fighting groups Invicta and Knight's Tower at Loxwood Joust 2023Medieval fighting groups Invicta and Knight's Tower at Loxwood Joust 2023
Medieval fighting groups Invicta and Knight's Tower at Loxwood Joust 2023

The executioner didn’t spare the grisly details of this craft during a talk entitled Tales of Crime and Punishment in Medieval Times.

He gleefully talked the crowd through the tools of his trade (dismembering axe anyone?) and explained that corpses were ‘par-boiled’ before being publicly displayed, in order to deter birds from pecking away at them and thus hastening the decay of the very public warning against wrongdoing. History doesn’t come much more horrible!

The jousting itself is a very impressive spectacle. It’s conducted at a fair old lick as wooden lances snap and splinter dramatically against shield and armour.

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In front of the baying crowd and violence-loving King, the riders showed off their skills, picking up ‘severed heads’ with their lances and performing all sorts of acrobatic riding tricks.

Jane's Historical Kitchen at Loxwood JoustJane's Historical Kitchen at Loxwood Joust
Jane's Historical Kitchen at Loxwood Joust

Later in the day the cannons roared as the Battle for Loxwood took place in the Living History field, archers filled the skies with arrows and members of the many reenactment groups took part in the melee.

Away from the prevailing narrative there was an excellent variety of things to see and do.

The Medieval Baebes, an acclaimed all female group, sang traditional medieval songs on the Woodland Stage, and next week’s joust will feature Spanish medieval band Trobar De Morte.

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And two groups from the Medieval Sports Combat Association, Knight’s Tower from Norwich and Invicta who are based much closer to Loxwood in Cobham, are fully-armoured full contact fighting groups who spent a large part of the day grappling, charging around and clattering each other with maces and hatchets!

The fights, in a specially assembled wooden pen called a list and in the main arena, were brutal and thrilling (as the above video shows), and conducted in up to 40lbs of armour.

Across the site there was a variety of workshops including a medieval archery academy, a Knight School which taught its students how to handle a sword and buckler (a small round shield), and the younger festival goers enjoyed the jester’s school with Devil Stick Pete and his assistants.

Examples of medieval crafts and industry were also everywhere, and the passionate and very approachable ‘Medievalists’ were happy to share their knowledge of everything from chain-mail armour to board games.

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Our favourite attraction in the Living History field was Jane’s Historical Kitchen, offering some scrummy medieval grub, cooked used authentic medieval means and using recipes taken from a Hampton Court cookbook.

The pies, onion filled slices of steak, and bread pudding made with honey, were as tasty as they were informative. Freshly cooked history!

Loxwood Joust is brilliantly organised event, and a winning combination educational history and fun escapism

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