Or a long way from Scotland in the rain!!

Basing House was the Easter weekend event for 2018, spanning March 30th to April 2nd

It has been a very very long time since we’ve been to an Easter muster — we think the last time that Jacqui and I went to one it was in Wolverhampton in about 1991/92. With the mists of time we’d forgotten the bad bits and remembered only the enjoyable part, so we decided - although it was a long long way - to take our new tent and go to the living history at Basing.

Membership cards only arrived on the Thursday before the muster (a new record in lateness) and there was no issue of orders with a warning order to tell us were to go, not even one electronically on the SK website in the members area. It had to be on because (a) we had details from the living history coordinator and (b) Basing House was advertising it on their website. So having packed the car and a trailer (for the new tent) and filled the roof box with the new bed we set off for Hampshire in the sleet.

Having driven through the snowy border hills we stopped at Abington for a coffee before joining the M74 (the English M6), it was over coffee that David remember he hadn’t printed the email from the living history coordinator and confided in Jacky that his phone couldn’t receive personal emails [only work ones :-( ]. Never mind, there will be SK signposts up!

As we travelled south in bright weather all troubles were forgotten until somewhere near Solihull where it began to rain. Still we pressed on, as the weather forecast showed it would dry up about 7 pm. About 6:30 we arrived in Basing and found some AA signs pointing to the house - these did not lead to the house but to the Royalist SK Campsite - the gate to which was firmly closed.

"You’ll not get on here” said the guard, “the campsites closed - we've given up towing people ON TO the site."

This must be some kind of record, given that it was Friday evening and there was no battle till Sunday!!

We explained to the guard that we were looking for Living History.

“Oh" she said, helpfully, “That’s by the club, you know”. We didn’t. When pressed for details it became apparent that neither did she. Someone said it was the Legion in the village, so back to the car. The sat-nav located the RBL Bowling Club. Arriving at this we found a small sign which said, Parliament Camp. David walked up the muddy lane to a damp gazebo, the guard said this was the parliament camp, denied any knowledge of living history and tried to direct us back to the Royalist Camp. “They sent us here” said David, “well they’re wrong” said the Guard.

Driving back through the village we saw a sign that said Basing House Visitors Entrance.  Stopping the car in a lay by, David walked off to see if anything more could be learned. The visitors centre was dominated by a large tythe barn, from which happy sounds could be heard. Climbing over several closed gates and working round the back of the building revealed an open door. Inside was the Stagger Inn Beer Barn. They did know where living history was, so we drove round to the back of the house and found a camper van in the car park. Helpfully the owner of the van said it was up the hill, but it would be best to walk as the road was a bit muddy. We walked up the hill to see a large living history camp on the far side of a wooden bridge. The living history people welcomed us and said a Land Rover would bring the trailer and the poles from the car. Sam was kind enough to oblige but managed to get the Landy bogged down on the way back and we spent a happy half hour trying to shift it! Before giving up and man (and woman) handling the trailer over the wooden bridge. We were there!! It had taken nearly two hours from first arriving to get onto the camp!

Having pitched the tent we went to get some tea - the local chippy was recommended and when we arrived, at 10pm, it was just closing. However, pie and fish suppers were obtained. We ate them sat by the fire and were told in no uncertain terms that the chippy was good but not the best - it transpired a better one was in York, near the racecourse!! The living history people pitched in and helped us pitch and strike the tent, they provided a warm fire and were very sociable. After asking about signage Jacqui was told “well, we don’t bother you see as the people who come to Basing all know where to go, and the ones that don’t know don’t come!”.

We slept well on the comfortable and warm bed and got up to a very cold, grey morning. Dreich is the Scottish word for the day’s weather, that almost fog/almost drizzle which, definitely isn’t dry, but actually isn’t raining. The temperature reached a balmy 7 degrees before - as the sky cleared at about six - plummeting to ensure a frost. We spent the day on living history entertaining the hardy visitors, and in the evening sat round a roaring fire playing music and singing songs. Next to our splendid red roofed pavilion was a very small soldier’s tent with the Royal banner flying next to it. This was Sam’s tent and we found out he had the job of playing the King [How the mighty have fallen].

Sunday morning was dry, cold and sunny, with a breeze which dried canvas very effectively. There was a march (which bypassed living history and which David ignored) and then the battle. With no sign of Royalist in red coats and no sign of the Rawdon’s who had left living history for the March and not returned. David joined some red coated soldiers who were waiting in the woods. They turned out to be from Essex and Tower Hamlets, so he fought with the Parliament. It’s an interesting battle with several uphill charges and rubber house bricks being thrown by both sides - an effect spoiled when two soldiers emptied a cardboard box of them on the enemy!! After the battle everyone was stripping living history and decamping - heavy rain was forecast to return at 8pm and with yellow warnings for the following 24 hours!! The dry canvas was taken down and packed, and we set off for a hotel.

Our initial plan had been to stay at Ridgeway House on the Harwell Science Park - but it proved impossible to find in a maze of roads which ended in security gates and no-one about on Easter Sunday night. We wanted to stay there because it’s where we met, when as students we both lived in an Atomic Energy Authority Hostel (to which Ridgeway house was the posher counterpart). Bad signage and poor navigation triumphed again so we found a better signposted hotel nearby.

Heading north the next morning we stopped in for a very welcome cup of tea with Keith and Tracey, before driving back to Scotland.

So not so much the promised muster report, but more a travelogue.

David and Jacqi