MONMOUTH Castle returned to the early 15th century last weekend, as re-enactment companies Companions of the Forest and Brotherhood of Amman set up camp within its ancient walls. Several hundred visitors kept them busy throughout Saturday, with questions about weapons and armour and life for a soldier in Henry V’s army.

This event was part of Monmouth’s contribution to Agincourt 600 – a nationwide commemoration of Henry’s seemingly impossible defeat of the mighty French army, which outnumbered the English forces by five to one.

Henry was born at Monmouth Castle in August 1387, and many of the bowmen who contributed so effectively to his campaign in France came from Gwent and the Forest of Dean. So it was very appropriate that the re-enactors focused heavily on archery and people were given the opportunity to ‘have a go’.

They discovered, for example, that an archer skilled with the longbow could unleash between 15 and 20 arrows per minute: a line of bowmen standing side by side and working in unison could create a devastating arrow storm.

The day which, against all forecasts, had been bright and sunny should have concluded with a ceilidh but less than an hour into their musical programme, Herefordshire band Whiffeldy were obliged to abandon hope of carrying on as a sudden, massive thunderstorm threatened to tear down tents. Within minutes, the Castle Parade Ground became a shallow lake.

Sunday continued to be wet, but despite the suggestion that the day would, literally, be a washout some intrepid families braved the weather and still found the reenactors enthusiastic to welcome them and demonstrate a range of weapons and musical instruments, albeit under the cover of canvas.

With the skies still ominously black at lunch time, the organisers reluctantly took the decision to bring proceedings to a close, partly to prevent any accidents on the very wet grass. They apologise to anyone who arrived after 2.30pm, by which time camp had been broken, and also for the absence of Harry the Vole who, after meeting and greeting during Saturday spent the evening baling out his burrow in the banks of the Monnow.

Organisers also wish to thank the re-enactment companies and the ceilidh band for their professionalism in the face of adversity; Tim Warmington Gardner and Charlotte Rose for the terrific hog roast; Cadw for permitting use of the venue; St John Ambulance for their presence; Monmouthshire County Council, Monmouth Chamber of Commerce and Trade and David Tovey of MonTeas for their sponsorship; High Sheriff of Gwent, Andrew Tuggey; The Punch House, Sue Evans, David Cummings and Steve Brettle. Special thanks go to Captain David Bell and the R Mon R E (M) for their support and the use of the Parade Ground, and the Agincourt 600 Committee.