The Uffington White Horse Show and AOBC UK English Country Backswording finals 2009
This year the famous Uffington White Horse Show held at Uffington in Oxfordshire
was held on Sunday the 30th and Monday the 31st of August and was the venue for this
years English Country Backswording Tournament finals.
Back in 2007 the Organizers of the show invited the Aisle O’var Backswording Club
to bring English Country Backswording back to one of the most famous sites it was
played at in England. At the time the last recorded date that Backswording was played
at the Uffington show was some 100 years before and so it was the greatest of honors
to be asked to reintroduce this most excellent English country sport back on its
100th anniversary. Suffice to say the playing at Backswording went down a storm with
the attending spectators and we have been kindly asked back each year since.
Over the weekend the tournament was enjoyed by over 10,000 visitors to the White
horse Show. The fighting was extremely fast and really showed the skills of the individual
fighters at their best. In the end there can be only one winner and this years AOBC
UK Grand final was won by Tom Reynolds. The Silver medal position went to Barry Voice
and the Bronze to Chaz ‘The Groo’ Albrighton.
The Awards were presented by Wesley Smith the Lunchtime presenter at BBC Radio Oxfordshire
Winners - Tom Reynolds, Barry Voice and Chaz ‘The Groo’ Albrighton
Tom Reynolds showing that even winners take a hit once in a while and proving that
English Country Backswording is a full contact sport
The Uffington White Horse Show.
The Show dates back many hundreds of years and was also known as the scouring of
the white horse. It was started when local villagers decided to annually clean the
Uffington White Horse which dates back over 5,000 years. At this scouring the locals
would erect tents and booths in the ‘Castle’ as it is called on the hill. The ‘Castle’
is an ancient Iron Age fort and its ramparts and ditches are huge and the inner area
of the castle is a most excellent place to hold a gathering and it is quite understandable
why the locals felt it worth pulling all their wares and barrels of beer and cider
up on to the hill for what became a huge annual revel.
And so the scouring on the White Horse began and was held virtually annually year
on year over the centuries. Although for a number of years the show was not held
it was revived about 40 years ago and has been run ever since making it one of today’s
oldest surviving English country shows thanks to the work of the existing committee
who are doing such a great and commendable job in maintaining the yearly running
of the show. Due to the nature of the show and because White Horse hill is a protected
area these days the show is held just outside Uffington in the shadow of the hill
which can be clearly seen from the current site.
The whole area around Uffington is steeped in history. As has been already mentioned
the White Horse dates back many thousands of years, below it is Dragon Hill where
local legend says St George Killed the Dragon and that the bald top of the hill is
where the dragons blood was spilt and now nothing will grow there. Close to the hill
is Wayland Smithy, a Neolithic long barrow and again legend has it that if your horse
goes lame if you leave your horse tethered outside and leave a silver coin with it,
in the morning on your return your horse will be shoed by Wayland himself. Wayland
or Wolund, is the Norse and Saxon god of blacksmithing.
Moving on now a little further from the hill can be found the famous ‘Blowing Stone’.
The Blowing Stone is a perforated Sarsen stone, located these days in a garden at
the foot of Blowingstone Hill just south of the Icknield Way (B4507), at Kingston
Lisle. In its day the stone was kept outside a local Inn and was chained up to stop
its ill use apart from at the time of the scouring where people were challenged to
blow the stone. This was, according to legend, the means whereby King Alfred summoned
his Saxon troops, in readiness for the nearby Battle of Ashdown, against the Vikings.
This legend reputedly gives rise to the village's name, 'King's stone'. The Lisle
suffix being a later addition.
Also, according to legend, a person who is capable of making the blowing stone sound
a note which is audible atop Uffington White Horse Hill will be a future King of
But these are only a couple of local places of interest. Its well worth spending
the whole weekend if you can to explore the area or simply just come over for a really
great day out.
Find out more about the show at www.whitehorseshow.co.uk
What’s English Country Backswording?
The Aisle O’var Backswording Clubbe is one of the UK leading Traditional English
Martial Arts clubs. The AOBC has recently been featured in the hit international
movie release of ‘Reclaiming the Blade’ and also in the newly released best selling
book ‘We could be Heroes’ by Tom Fordyce and Ben Dirs which features many of the
more traditional world championship country sports that take place yearly.
Backswording up on the White Horse Hill was ‘THE’ main sport which was played at
and in its hay day attracted many thousands of people to the Scouring to see the
‘Gamsters’ from across middle England fight it out to be crowned champion.
Backswording is an ancient English Stick fighting sport dating back for many centuries.
It is derived from the Martial practise and use of the English steel Backsword/Broadsword.
Players or ‘Old Gamesters’ as they are traditionally called, fight at full force
and full speed using wooden cudgels with no body protection, their cudgel being their
only true defence. There are two referees or ‘Sticklers’ as they are traditionally
called, in the ring with them to make sure the rules are played to and their decision
is final. It’s from traditional English sports such as Country Backswording that
employ the use of ‘Sticklers’ that the term ‘A stickler for the rules’ comes from.
The ‘Sticklers’ take their names from the long sticks that they carry and would use
to separate over enthusiastic players or to keep the spectators out of the ring.
Traditionally the winner is the player to raise an inch of blood or more from the
head of their opponent above the eye line. In today’s play although there is still
no body protection worn, the fighters do wear head protection and the winner is the
first player to score a total of 3 clean blows (known as a blood) to the head of
their opponent. It is then deemed that one of those bloods would have produced the
required inch or more of blood as required under the ancient rules of play. English
Country backswording is a true spectators sport. Spectators are encouraged to choose
a player to support and then shout their support throughout the match to help their
‘Old Gamester’ to victory!
Qualifying rounds have already been played for and the
AOBC UK Finals will see 8 of the UK’s top crack cudgel players fight it out for the
White Horse Cup and to be crowned the AOBC UK English Country Backswording Champion