By Tony May
As regular readers will already know, I am a big fan of the town of Battle. Olde Worlde, surrounded by beautiful countryside and steeped in the history of England it’s a place I always feel right at home! Consider also my love for the 70’s children’s television programme, Worzel Gummidge and in the Battle Annual Scarecrow Festival you have an event made in heaven for me.
The festival started life four years ago as part of Battle Town Council’s ‘Beautiful Battle’ idea but has proved to be so popular it has now turned into an annual event. Each year a different theme is chosen and this year the theme is ‘Battle – Going For Gold’ to tie in with the Olympics.
Now, as Worzel Gummidge proved all those years ago, scarecrows are masters of disguise and so the task of taking on a sporting theme was no problem for them. With a sprinkling of magic from the Crowman and the imagination of a host of different schools, clubs and associations, scarecrows from all over the land have come to Battle to represent the Olympic spirit!
Outside Battle Abbey in the centre of town I found assembled an impressive array of sporting scarecrows. Representing Glengorse was a super strong weight lifting scarecrow. So strong was he in fact that in all the time I was there I never once saw him put down the heavily weighted bar he held above his head!
The scarecrow equivalent of equestrian star, Pam Shallcross, was there as well wearing a natty green wig and sporting a bright red top, white jodhpurs and black boots. Even her horse had come dressed for the party wearing multi coloured pajamas and suitably prepared for rotten weather wearing wellies on all four hooves!
Particularly daring though was the scarecrow outside Battle Emporium hanging on to a pole-vaulting stick in mid air! In front of the Union flag he was proudly swinging to and fro in the breeze for England – what a star!
Walking away from the Abbey through the centre of Battle I found that a number of local shopkeepers had also teamed up with the scarecrow community to put on a show. St Michael’s Hospice front window was home to a rather athletic looking Karate practicingscarecrow, while, The Bull Inn was attended by a scarecrow advertising how to re-cycle the Olympic rings after the games by using them as wheels for your bike – all very sensible stuff!
In the beautiful grounds of the Local History Museum next to the Town Hall a very famous scarecrow could be found – Daley Thompson. The poor chap did look rather uncomfortable though with one leg draped over a hurdle and a heavy looking set of dumbbells in his hand. Mind you, laden down with so many gold medals I doubt he will mind… There was something rather odd about his face though? Was it me or could Daley really have been Nigel Mansell in disguise? After performing the scarecrow greeting I tried to engage the fellow in conversation but he was keeping mum the crafty blighter. As soon as my back was turned though I swear I heard someone doing an impression of Murray Walker ‘Oh! And that’s Mansell!’ I’m sure I heard.
Scarecrow Festival aside for a moment, I really cannot impress on you enough how beautiful a place Battle is at this time of year. There are flower baskets everywhere, not a trace of litter to be seen and some truly stunning gardens to visit at The Local History Museum. For an old romantic and poet like me just spending time in such a natural and magical place is nourishing and while the busy and noisy main road continues to be a nuisance, once you get yourself away from it and into the tranquil gardens of the museum all of your cares and worries just melt away. Around the back they even have a deep wishing well and this year in the main front garden there is a lovely display of white and red flowers laid out in the shape of the English flag. How could anyone fail to get into the Olympic and Jubilee spirit after seeing that, I wonder?
Back to the festival and I have to make mention of a very realistic Tennis playing scarecrow in the museum grounds. Andy Murray would be proud to have his service and concentration, I bet. Then, a bit further up the road by the roundabout, you come across some of the scarecrow Olympic teams taking part this year. In the Silver Jubilee flower bed heading out of town Ian Reed has managed to bring together two agile chaps to take on his obstacle race. It looks as if it will be a fight to the line to see who wins as both scarecrows look fit and determined!
Perhaps predictably, things appear to have gone down hill for the GG Olympic canoe team outside Battle Fire Station. Their canoe seems to have deflated and so it’s a good job they are on the grass and not in the water as yet. Let’s hope repairs can be performed on the vessel in order to allow them their chance to go for gold. Netherfield CEP School have put together a fine synchronized swimming team, though. Complete with goggles and dark blue bathing suits I’m sure they will perform well for us at the games.
One scarecrow who didn’t look as if he was enjoying life much though was the paraplegic representative a few yards away. Stuck on his own he was sat facing right into the teeth of the wind and by the look I captured on his face (see pic) I reckon the draught was doing horrid things to his vitals!
The Battle Scarecrow Festival is a really fun event. There are loads of scarecrows to see and kids will simply love all of the funny poses, bright costumes and comical faces. As for us adults? Well, its easy to re-engage with the child within if you allow yourself to do so – just don’t get caught performing the scarecrow greeting by the missus, that’s all!
Finally, I would like to say a big thank-you to Hastings Town reader Betty Hornsey who spotted me and came over to tell me how much she enjoys my articles. It is always nice to know that your efforts are being appreciated and I am always happy to meet HT fans so do come over and speak to me if you see me out and about. A word of warning, however, at this time of year Battle may not be the best place to speak to strangers because if you are short sighted you may just find yourself talking to a scarecrow…
“And that’s Mansell!”
Who said that?
From Hastings Town September 2012
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