‘How many days would you like to dance?’. Long bemused pause, ‘’Well, all of them please’.
We know Chippenham FF really well, 25 years + at least and a joy to return. Old hands remembered the awesome ceilidhs and the surreal Aquaceilidh fondly – and the reeking abattoir less fondly. It was Phil and Chris & Sue’s first weekend away with the morris – hope they enjoyed it!
Friday 240519 – The Gathering
Great campsite with plenty of room and good facilities plus enough Foolish foragable flowers. Careful setup of two ‘vans with the social events shelter between them with motorhomes and tents in the suburbs. Heavy shower was the only rain all weekend. Tim and Ian and Paul served the side royally from the ‘vans the whole weekend – thank you. Lovely to have Gisela, Janet, Sue and Jinny with us all weekend as well. Sunny lolling under the shelter before fish and chips, of course, in the ubiquitous ‘Spoons – served at F1 speed and very good. A tad disappointing that ‘Spoons had few local beers on offer, and those few sold out quickly. A quick roam to look at various acts in various venues, the Festival starting to buzz. Then home to standard YMM camping fare of whisky, port and cheese….and an unlikely good night’s sleep.
Saturday 250519 – The Rising
Gasping tent dwellers were up early begging tea & coffee. Up and about early birds tormented the sluggish owls before the serious work of breakfast and hat decoration. Egg and (Reeves of Yateley) Bacon in sarnies – perfect dancing fodder. Buckets of fresh flowers and the ‘Hedgerow Bounty’ (aka weeds) for the Fool. Delighted to find friends Colin and Helena were near neighbours, not sure if they were SO pleased…
First stop 1030 was the superb Rose & Crown with the engaging Hollycopse Molly and with neverseenbefore Tinners Morris – who were definitely up for a larf and were good dancers & great company. YMM did a dodgy Bumpus followed by a much improved Lichfield stickie and a William & Nancy (Bled). Much bellowing from the Fool, and the Beast made his first appearance to much shrieking from the crowd. Sadly few beasts and even fewer Fools seen over the weekend.
Discovered the brilliant Flying Monk Pub and brewery, plus Parsons Bakery doing good pasties at only £1.50 a pop mid high street. That was us sorted for the weekend.
Onto the bottom of the High St with Hollycopse and Blackpowder Border. A less intimate spot with hordes of passing public – perfect Horse terrain. It did require greater effort and volume. Andy P and Gunther performed a very jaunty Princess Royal (Ba) double jig. We made a new best fan – a Yateley fisherman (no, not that sort) who regaled us with loud shouts of ‘Yateleeeeee!’ for the rest of the weekend.
Back to the Flying Monk (much bantering with the lively Tinners), where the Squire discovered the excellent range of Lilley’s ciders (aka ‘Happy Juice’), for a breather before getting organised for the parade through the town. What a spectacle. Phil, our bannerman, lead us and the Horse, in equine ‘eaven, romped through and with the other sides. Brilliant. Down to the river and then dancing through the main marquee to give the (large) crowd a chance to see all the sides. Bit of a break before heading to a spot outside Wetherspoons with Cardiff Morris (excellent Dragon!) and Hips & Hawes.
A slow amble back to the tents for a quick beer, change & and loll in the sun before a variety of dinners – more fish & chips, feast at the site or simple Sutherland self-sufficiency. Delighted to find that one of Sue’s photos (a hugging Chris and Andy) had made front page of the ‘Chippenham Gazette’. Good acts to watch in the Big Top – Wilsons and, our pick, Melrose Quartet. Traditional late night feast of whisky, port & cheese to finish off.
Sunday 260519 – The Peaking
Another fine breakfast after a freezing cold night (for the campers!). Early spot in a shopping centre was fine, with Northgate. Our Fool had slipped way to Methodist Central to do a ‘spot’ – ‘Jesus, morris dancing & me’, rejoining us promply at our residency at ‘Spoons with Tatters & Tails & Somerset Morris. A little interlude now so we dispersed to ‘Spoons bar or the Flying Monk for more beer (Happy Juice for the Squire) / Parsons for pasties.
Off to the grim sounding Olympiad Car Park, which had TWO bars, one open & one closed which confused our Fool immensely, much to the amusement of the stewards. More Lilleys and Flying Monk….. YMM were now moving into their boisterous, playful mode with Quayside Cloggies ‘benefitting’ from our attentions, oh dear. They danced well, as did Mary Rose/Royal George (a sort of morris plus country dance, very watchable). Some of us stayed for more beer/cider and to shout playfully at the next sides……we can’t have been too awful as we copped an invitation from Miserden Morris for next year.
A quick slurp, pastie and a nevertoberepeated vegetarian sausage roll (but it did…) and back to Wetherspoons with Devizes Jubilee (very mixed, very good) and the heartwarming Rigel Juniors. Hard acts to follow. Some of us lingered a bit and fell into a long conversation Hankies Gone Awry all the way from California – they were heading to Adderbury next day and were very surprised to be greeted by name by tour guide Monty on the brewery tour. Back to the camp site for beer. J
Scattering for the evening, one party abandoning an Indian restaurant, a Shocker, after poor service and spilling of beer on the Fool. Good acts on tho’. One party contentedly watched, surely, the best ceilidh in the country with jumping dance music and Chiltern Hundreds ranting their socks off. There seemed to be whisky and cheese left, and we all fell in love with Helena’s and Colin’s disco ball….gonnagetone.
Monday 270519 – The Creaking
More brekkie and a general tidying up and putting away of dry tents. We had lost a few chaps but were delighted to have Graham Wood with us for the day. Three spots: Olympiad carpark with the ever amiable Chippenham; the main stage (Jenny Jones & Myrtle both well done) and finally High St with Hereburgh. We passed out various chocolate bars to stewards as a (tiny!) thank you for their brilliant work over the weekend. Last action was another grand procession down through town with all the other sides with our Beast stealing the show. Absolutely great finish, but all a bit knackered now!
With 70+ sides we did wonder if the town would be overdanced, but not the case. Good spots with small nos of sides was a real testimony to excellent planning by the organisers and volunteers who truly deserve our thanks and a virtual round of applause. We’ll be back……
PS Thanks to all the excellent photographrs!
Andy Pobjoy, Andrew Armitage, Chris Bartlett, Paul Lethbridge, David Wright, Steve Betts, Gunther Clasen, Phil Goddard, Ross Healey, Tim Lloyd, Graham Wood, Ian Sutherland, Ian Young, Andy Young, Rod Crane, World Famous Yateley Horse