Building the bonfire on Baynes field

I’d never have believed it, if I hadn’t helped out on the work in previous years, what a long and laborious procedure it actually is to create the Bonfire Night. But usually I’ve started to help with the shifting of the turves; this year I managed to get down to Baynes Field before they were all actually cut.

Nigel likes to do the turf cutting job himself, so then he knows the lines are straight, the turves are even, and all can be rolled up nicely and stacked onto a handily loaned trailer (thanks to Charlie Halliday!). This year the turves were 5.5 feet long, cut out of a 33 foot long square. I’d have measured it out in a 10 metre square myself, but Nigel is an imperial measures kind of guy.

You could see, on close inspection, that the fire has shifted about on the field over the years, as only a corner section underneath the turves was charred. The trailer load gets covered with a tarpaulin (nobody wants to shift more weight than is required, and those turves can get mighty water-logged if they’re not protected!) and shifted to a quiet corner of the field.

And then, and only then, can the job of stacking the wood actually begin. The Lions have been accumulating bits and pieces of flotsam and jetsam over the year, including some of the unwanted furniture items from the Charity Auction, and with the beneficent weather earlier this week, it was much more fun to collect the stuff than it often has been in the drizzle. This year, with the benefit of two trailers, and two gangs of three folks each, the job of collecting, delivering and stacking (Lions President Margaret Stonehouse carefully supervised the stacking from on top of the pile, as well as preparing lunch for the other labourers) was accomplished most expeditiously.

The fire always has a core of a bale of hay, soaked with a bit of diesel like a well fed Christmas cake is soaked with brandy, and then a ‘lighting tunnel’ is constructed leading into the centre. Around the tunnel and the bale the rest of the wood, old shed detritus, smashed furniture, and finally brashings galore, are strategically placed for an optimum burn. This year Matthew Robson was bringing in three trailer loads of brashings to cover the pile and make it look more aesthetically pleasing.

With the wood pile nearing completion then, it was time to turn to the other work for the night ahead: the entrance stalls; the white tables and chairs; the erection of the food marquees; the collection and delivery of the fire safety barriers. All would be accomplished over the next few days, until the big night, which is always, always, always in Allendale on the actual date: Remember, remember, the 5th of November, right? I forgot to mention the stringing of the big fairy lights along the drive to the Hen House in Baynes Bus Yard, which annually takes up the efforts of two stringers for about a day.

On the day itself the food workers will assemble with all of their comestibles, and the big bash will swing into operation. The Lions’ Health & Safety vigilance committee will be working on the fireworks, the sound system will be rigged up for accompanying music, and also so that Nigel can broadcast the crucial announcements (like the raffle prize winners), the donut lady will arrive and the Lions barbecue and a small host of gas fires will be lit: bacon butties; sausages; hot dogs; soup; hot drinks anyone? The fire brigade will arrive to monitor the situation. From about 6pm the crowds will start to pour down the lane (entrance is £2 per person to pay for the fireworks — the event is self-sustaining financially).

With any luck the rain will have given over by about noon on the day, and the skies will clear; it’s supposed to be crisp and cold! All the better to warm ourselves by the fire, which is usually lit sometime around 7:00pm, if the Lions can persuade someone to crawl through the tunnel to set it alight!

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