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Open Country
Sat  6.10 - 6.35am
Thurs 1.30 - 2.00pm (rpt)
Local people making their corner of rural Britain unique
This week
Saturday 23 September 2006
Listen to this programme in full
This week, Richard Uridge visits Blore Heath, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the War of the Roses - and one of the least known.
On September 23, 1459, the armies of the House of Lancaster and the House of York met at Blore Heath and fought the battle which would begin the English Wars of the Roses. Thousands of men from across England fought and died in a bloody battle, which lasted for one day.

Today, you'd be forgiven from not noticing the battlefield. The area just outside Market Drayton, is better known for its sleepy hillsides, than military carnage. But as battlefield re-enactor Mark Hinsley shows Richard, the history is all there if you know how to look for it.

Richard also meets John and Rosamond Hegarty , who own Blore Heath Farm, which houses much of the old battlefield. Once a year, they turn the farm over to re-enactors who recreate the Battle, complete with horses and cannons. You can get more information on the actual Battle of Blore Heath via their website. 

Many legends surround the battle, some involving Queen Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI. Legend has it that she went up the tower of St Mary 's Church, Mucklestone, and watched her forces be defeated by the Yorkist side led by Lord Salisbury. Richard chats with local historian George Butters , who helps him separate the fact from the fiction.

But Market Drayton isn't just seeped in blood and gore. The town was also well known for damsons, and its damson fair dates back to the 1200s, long before the soldiers marched into battle. The damsons weren't used for food, but for dying cloth. Fiona Nisbet , a weaver and dyer, and Philippa Atkey from A Taste of The Town show Richard all the things you can usefully do with the fruit.

Finally, Richard gets to where the battle ended, Salisbury Hill, a grassy plateau where the victorious Yorkist forces camped before heading off to Ludlow . Richard talks with Keith Piggott, a re-enactor and Yorkist descendant, who explains why the Yorkist were unable to make headway on such an important victory.

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