Today was fun. I was invited to run three workshops in writing skills for 7-9 year olds from various local schools. The event was at Warwick Castle. With the wall as a backdrop we dreamed up good characters, bad characters, locations and happenings which we mixed and matched to make stories. Harry the Headchopper was a particular favourite.
At lunchtime we all sat on the bank to witness the firing of the trebuchet. I had no idea what one of these was until I moved to within a stone's throw (bad pun, sorry) of Warwick Castle thirteen years ago and Jonathan brought that and etiolate home as spellings. Different league to Cestria County Primary I can tell you.
Anyway a trebuchet. It's a device for throwing rocks the size of footballs at a castle wall, although despicable users are not renowned for restraint and lack of imagination when hurling things into castles. We were told that the machine could be used to throw fire, quick-lime and defeated soldiers' body parts. Oh and manure. Don't forget the manure.
Three or four guys get in a giant hamster's wheel and legging it round use it to lift a counterweight which pulls back a huge arm made of a bendy wood such as ash. The arm is locked off. Then the rope is unsnagged from one end. The sling is filled with the ammo. Everyone stands clear and the firer pulls out the locking pin. The weight falls, the arm shoots up and over in a great arc and the sling attached to it travels back along the ground and then up and over, following the arm and releasing its contents. Boy did those contents get some height and speed.
I went to have a look at the two foot hole in the ground the ball had made. It would make some mess of a castle wall and anyone in the way I can tell you. Terrific fun in peace time. Go and visit Warwick Castle.
The trebuchet is fired twice a day and there are also falconry displays, archery demonstrations and, of course, the dungeons, the ramparts and all the rooms and waxworks. It is £15 for adults but good value I reckon, especially if you can wrangle it so you are paid to go. Tee hee.