A Letter from Nantwich

January 2016

Daffodils - and Island - survive the battle

The "battle" is over and the daffodils have survived - and there is no damage to this end of the site of the skirmishes. This is Mill Island looking towards the Waterlode and Castle Court

CALLS for this year's Battle of Nantwich re-enactment to be moved to another location, or even cancelled altogether, have been answered by the Holly Holy Day Society which arranges the annual event.

   The calls were reported on a respected Nantwich website - not this one - after Mill Island, the site of the battle re-enactment on the Millfields side of the Waterlode, was saturated by the continual winter rain and - to make matters worse - the beds of daffodils which made their first appearance last year shot up more than a month early thanks to the mild autumn and winter.

   One local person quoted in the website article forecast that the re-enactment would destroy Mill Island, with no grass left after the battle and a mud bath that would take months to recover.

   Another resident was concerned that the re-enactment would destroy the daffodils.

   The Holly Holy Day Society had already expressed confidence that the wet weather would not cause the cancellation of the event. The site had a new drainage system installed a few years ago.


AS Holly Holy Day dawned, it was seen that the beds of daffodils circling Mill Island had been marked and protected by tapes. This included the beds across the footpath which runs from the Waterlode to Millfields, which meant that spectators would have to be accommodated a little further back from the battle site than in previous years.

   Some daffodils were destroyed during the re-enactment but the Holly Holy Day Society blamed spectators who crossed the barriers and ignored instructions from the stewards simply to get a closer view of the event.


In the foreground of the picture (which is looking towards Riverside and Welsh Row), are some of the majority of daffodils which survived the "battle".  In the far distance of the site is the small area of the island where battling re-enactors churned up the surface of the island. Much less than in previous years.  

SHAUN Cafferty, Chairman of the Holly Holy Society, said "We were obviously aware of, and shared, the concern about the daffodils. It's not been a problem before, but the exceptionally mild winter caused them to appear about a month or more earlier than before.

   "That's no one's fault but the very unusual weather, so criticisms of Cheshire East Council (who planted the beds of daffodils on the island last year) were also a


Before the day of the battle, tapes were placed on either side of the daffodil beds. The patch of bare earth was not caused by the re-enactment - it was there when the daffodils first flowered (2015)



little unfair. We liaised extensively with the local authorities, and with the Sealed Knot as well as horticultural specialists and spent a great deal of time assessing all the options.

    "It is far less practical than people think to find an alternative venue for the battle, with planning, traffic and health and safety issues to consider. Mill Island got a new drainage system a few years back and the ground there was in much better shape than other open spaces in the town anyway.  

   "The horticultural advice was that many daffodils at this stage of growth would recover from being trampled on (dogs are running through them daily at present), and that a very severe frost or waterlogging of the ground would pose a more serious threat than the battle. Nevertheless, the daffs in bloom are a fantastic and much-loved spectacle and we didn't want to take any chances.

  "The hard job was balancing the concern for the daffodils with the concern of those who felt equally strongly that the event is important for the town and needed to go ahead.

   "The soldiers make their way to Nantwich every year on a voluntary basis, so we didn't want to start restricting their numbers and risk their future support. With gunpowder and weapons involved, they also have strict health and safety criteria to work to, which requires a minimum size and space.

   "In the event, after many trips to Mill Island in our spare time, and a lot of co-operation from everyone and support from Cheshire East, we were able to devise a plan that would protect all but a few of the daffodils. It meant that the spectators were a little further from the action, and some adjustments in how the battle was staged, but hopefully that didn't spoil anyone's





   "We estimate that more than 95% of the daffodils were totally untouched, and that even some of the casualties will recover."

    Sadly some daffodil damage was caused by spectators ignoring the barriers and stewards' instructions, in order to try and get a better view, which was disappointing after all our efforts.

    "There was also concern expressed on social media

about cutting up the ground. However, the grass invariably recovers well when Spring comes along. In the days before the new drainage system, the ground conditions were far worse than they were this year and it was never a problem, so we were always confident on that score.

   "The ground dried out well in the run up to the battle, and in the event, half of the area used for the battle appears largely unchanged with just a muddy patch in the central area.

   "It was one of the best-attended Holly Holy Days in recent years - we think as much as 20% more people than last year. Ironically, I know that some people were making the effort to be here in order to show support for the event after all the controversy, so it probably helped!

   "The event was also featured on a Radio 2 programme which gets about six million listeners, and putting Nantwich on the national map wouldn't do any harm either.

   "Hopefully many people enjoyed it and the town's pubs and eating places seemed especially busy. The only complaint I have had so far was from someone who struggled to find a table at a restaurant in the evening, because it was full everywhere!"

The daffodils in full bloom last year | Battle of Nantwich introduction | Battle over timing of event | Let battle commence | Winter commemoration saved

Festival churns up island | Battle site churned up again | Big Battle of Nantwich | Mill Island daffodils survive | Letters index | Official Holly Holy Day website

A tale from the Riverside (about Mill Island)


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