A long time ago and far away, or at least in the 1970s over in Salford, the big deal at this time of year was bonfire night. Halloween wasn’t a thing. There was no trick or treating but we would hang out by the shops scrounging a penny for the guy.
Park in The Past at Hope look even further back into the past to celebrate the autumn feast and the imminent onset of winter.
Just ten miles from Chester, Park in The Past is a Community Interest Company which has been set up to restore and manage Fagl Lane Quarry, primarily for the benefit of the nearby residents of Hope, Caergwrle, and Pen y ffordd, in Flintshire. The Park covers 120 acres of woodlands and wetlands, including a 35-acre lake and the River Alyn. The objective of the Park is to recreate a full-scale Roman fort and Celtic village where visitors can experience the heritage and landscape of our ancestors.
Calon Gaeaf, or the Winter Heart, celebrates the original traditions of Halloween and Bonfire Night. Dating from times long before anybody heard of either Guy Fawkes or trick and treat. At the time of year when days grow much shorter and winter is coming, the community would gather around a bonfire to share the surplus of the summers harvest and ensure every member of the tribe had a fighting chance of surviving the winter.
Calon Gaeaf was a wonderfully atmospheric event. The Park was strung with lights and patrolled by druids and Roman soldiers. Looming over proceedings was a giant Wicker Man representing the soon to be despatched King of Summer. Taunted by ritualistic fire dancers and Druid Magicians leading the chant of “Burn! Burn! Burn!” the Wicker Man was eventually put to the torch, lighting up the sky and spreading a little final summer warmth into the cold night. Warmed by a pint of Hobgoblin Ale as we gazed at sparks from the fire spiral into the dark sky, we headed home feeling in true communion with the ancestors.
Calon Gaeaf is a non-firework bonfire and thus a relaxed, very dog-friendly event.
Further details here. You can catch the event next year, in early November for around £2 for children and £5 for adults, concessions available.