By Richard Belfield
I watch Jamie Wiggins and Mike Craven-Todd, the director/cinematographers, shoot the battle scenes. Jamie is right there in the action, Mike following everything on a 30-foot jib arm.
The re-enactors are all wearing full on replica Anglo Saxon battle dress and that means handmade leather shoes. By the end of the first hour, they all have very cold, very wet feet. I talk with one of them about the perils of trench foot, the painful infection which crippled British troops in World War I and again in the Falklands. He tells me that he did get a touch of it the year before, when they did a lot of re-enactment.
Despite the cold and the wet, the Christians and the Pagans go at each other with a ferocity which would make any American football coach proud. Nigel Amos, the fight coordinator, constantly pushes his men on. Once they see where the cameras are placed, they all start coming up with interesting combat scenarios. Their enthusiasm is contagious and they really do care who wins.
The news from the battlefront is that the Christians take an early casualty. Roland Williamson, a man who also makes exquisite Anglo Saxon replica jewellery, takes the blunt end of a spear in the face. Thankfully, it’s only a bruise, but it takes him out of the action, while we patch him up. But it’s now Pagans 1 Christians 0, which Mel tells me is pretty much how this particular battle ended up.
At the end of the day, I go back to the battle site. It’s dark now and Jamie is still filming warriors – now taking away the spoils of war. The forest is lit with an HMI (a multi kilowatt lamp) on top of a crane and flaming torches.
It’s atmospheric moody, very cold and wet.
I say a quiet prayer, thanking whichever diety, pagan or Christian, helped the invention of the text message and my friend who reminded me to wear thermals.
Lost Gold of the Dark Ages airs Sunday April 18 at 9P et/pt.