Viking re-enactor gets a true Norse send-off in Sheringham

Sheringham Viking Festival torch lit parade through the town which ended with a ceremonial boat burn

Sheringham Viking Festival torch lit parade through the town which ended with a ceremonial boat burning on the beach. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Record crowds turned out to watch a boat-burning ceremony on the sea-front at Sheringham to celebrate the town's Norse heritage.

Ordgar member Chris Wilkins, whose Viking name - Edmund the Elder - has been painted on the side of

Ordgar member Chris Wilkins, whose Viking name - Edmund the Elder - has been painted on the side of the 24ft longboat that will be burnt on Sheringham beach this Sunday as part of the annual Scira Viking festival. Picture: supplied - Credit: Archant

Young and old alike braved wintry weather on Sunday to witness the spectacular climax to the third annual Scira Viking Festival.

It provided a fitting send-off for Chris Wilkins, a founder member of Ordgar, a Dark Ages re-enactment group, based in Norwich, who died in his early 70s of a heart attack in December.

He had his Viking name, Edmund the Elder, emblazoned on the side of the longboat, which also carried his shield in a poignant tribute to commemorate his life.

Festival organiser Colin Seal said: 'It has been incredible, despite the bad weather. Every time there was an activity there was people there en masse. Even if it was pouring down with rain they enjoyed it. It gets better every year.'

Sheringham Viking Festival torch lit parade through the town which ended with a ceremonial boat burn

Sheringham Viking Festival torch lit parade through the town which ended with a ceremonial boat burning on the beach. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

As well as setting up a Viking village in the garden of the town's Lobster pub, Ordgar members joined fellow re-enactors Wuffa in the torchlit parade through the town before flaming arrows were fired through the air to 'set the longboat alight.

Joolz Bailey, Ordgar founder member, said: 'It has been brilliant. The people of Sheringham are just so wonderful, they are intersted in what we are doing and it is getting more well known.' And, referring to the tribute to Mr Wilkins, she added: 'Being able to have that last final tribute for him is wonderful.'

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Other highlights of the two-day festival included storytelling in the Viking village, a slave market and street battles.

Ms Bailey said: 'We have had story-telling and poetry competitions, we've been cooking authentically, it has been a busy day.

'We have had the living history encampment set up at the Lobster pub and we had a slave market which raises funds for the parish council to build the boat for next year.'

The weekend began with a children's shield and sword making workshop at Oddfellows Hall on Saturday, with attracted more than 70 youngsters and their families from near and far.

Cromer mayor Tim Adams said: 'I'm freezing cold but it's great to see so many people here despite that. I think the festival is pretty unique for this part of the world.

'We've seen all the kids running through the town all dressed up, it's a huge excitement for them.

'All the pubs and cafes that are open are very busy. One of my friends runs a business in the centre of town and he has had people visiting from all over.'

Shops that aren't always open at weekends during the winter, opened especially for the festival.

Tina Wheatland, manager of Ellie's ice-cream shop, said: 'It has been a good weekend, there has been lots of people in town and that's all we can ask for. When people have gone to the effort of putting something on, it's nice that everybody responds.'

And Ian Davis, who runs local burrito bar Cantina Adelita, added: 'We sold out - the vikings came and they pillaged us. It is fun but, at the end of the day, the point is to bring people in to spend some money to help us out during the winter.

'The first year we had 2,000 people, the next year it was 4,000 people and this year we are hoping to beat that.'

The weather worsened as crowds of well-wishers lined the street for the main parade on Sunday evening. But rain failed to dampen spirits.

Wendy Reade, who joined the crowds on the west promenade with her eight-year-old granddaughter Alesha, said: 'She was so excited, she wanted to see the Vikings and the burning of the boat. This is the first time she has seen it and it's great that so many have turned out.'

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