So you want to go to Rowany Festival? - SCA Barony of Southron Gaard

So you want to go to Rowany Festival?

Bartholomew Baskin and katherine kerr, April 2005 (minor update, October 2007)
See also: So you want to go to Canterbury Faire?

[Budget] [Camping] [Food] [Climate] [Fauna] [Facilities] [Logistical Support] [Resource Links] [Miscellaneous] [Shuttle]

Rowany Festival is the largest SCA event in the Southern Hemisphere, a full-on 5-6 day camping event involving around a thousand people. It is held over Easter each year and from 2008 will be at a new, green site just north of Sydney. Festival includes a melange of heavy tourneys, arts workshops, dancing, rapier, large-scale wars, archery, bardic arts, crafts, court, merchanting and much more besides. Take Canterbury Faire and multiply the number of attendees by four, and you get an approximation.

Festival 2008: Thursday March 20 to Tuesday March 25, 2008 - a pre-release draft of the Festival 2008 handbook may be found here and a draft campsite map is here.

In 2005 we made our first Festival visit with more ease than we expected, so we thought it might be useful to outline the main logistical, environmental and cost factors to try and make it as easy as possible for people to seriously consider attending. It's not as expensive or difficult as you might think!

Update 2007: Some references which are specific to the old site near Canberra have been removed, and notes added about the new site, [GoogleMaps image here] which katherine visited in October 2007.

Booking form for Festival 2008 may be found here.

We're happy to answer any specific questions in person or via email.


The heart of the old Festival site near Canberra, showing about 1/5 of the tents and 1/10 of the active site area. Note the Tavern and Great Hall marquees bracketing the left and right ends of the main tourney, merchanting and courtyard area, the pirate village (brown "instant cottages") behind

Sample Budget

The costs below, slightly rounded, are a reasonable projection of what you can expect to pay to attend Festival 2008 based on our previous experiences and the outlook for the new site, but do read the notes regarding assumptions therein.

Item Total cost per adult Note
Christchurch departure tax $25.00 &nbsp
Christchurch to/from Sydney, Pacific Blue $350.00 (1)
Airport to/from Sydney Central (rail) $22.00 (2)
Sydney Central to/from billet (rail) $9.00 (3)
Train/shuttle to/from site $50.00 (est) (4)
Site fees (early bird booking) $85.00 (5)
St Florian's camping, food $110.00 (6)
TOTAL: $NZ 651.00  

Notes:
(1) includes all levies and Sydney's expensive taxes, varies depending on when you book
(2) if you are not making an immediate connection to the train to Gosford (near the new site) you may choose to leave your heaviest belongings in storage near the Central railway station in a large locker for around $10 a day. But it's a few hundred metres walk from the station these days. Central has a direct and frequent rail link with the airport, taking around 15 minutes, and also with Gosford, see below.
(3) billeting in Sydney is usually on offer from friends of the Crescent Isles including the wonderful Canton of Stowe (West Sydney, wherein resides Lady Tatya, formerly of Southron Gaard - details below). Food and related costs in Sydney are not covered above; you may be able to manage flight/train schedules to minimise or eliminate them entirely, especially with the new Festival site -- see note (4) below.
(4) As of Christmas 2007, there isn't hard information yet on shuttle transport between the new site and the nearest station so this is an estimate from the stewards. But they say something will be available. The nearest town (Gosford), is roughly 90 mins by train from Sydney Central station -- trains every half hour -- and the return fare to Gosford is currently $18 from Sydney Central or $37 from the airport (approx. 2 1/4 hours including walking time, change at Central). The trip planner at Citirail may come in handy.
(5) See Rowany Festival Booking forms
(6) this is the early-bird (pre-January) price -- includes food on Thursday morning through to Tuesday morning, use of the St Flos showers and toilets, large dining/social marquee and tables, and water heating device. You would be rostered on three or four shifts for food/cleaning-type chores for 60+ people during the event. Fighters using the arming tent/tables and water-bearing services will be expected to contribute $20 towards this.

The big variable is, of course, air travel. We booked in December and perhaps saved a bit by doing so. But that can vary depending on who you fly with and when and how you book. Pacific Blue still counts one "sporting" bag as 5kg; handy for armour and archery. Their weighing-in seemed pretty relaxed -- for us at least. Jetstar, in contrast, are very careful with weigh-in. Recently (on a flight from Melbourne), we noticed that post-checkin weighing of hand-baggage can take place in immigration; with people being sent back if their carry-on weighs more than 7kg. This can be very inconvenient if you aren't at least prepared for the possibility!

Spending money for Festival -- whether for snacks, auctions or market items -- is an individual thing. We spent little, because we found most prices significantly higher than they would be for the same items here, except for the good variety of books at similar prices (and good shipping offers).

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The St Florian de la Riviere encampment at the old Festival site near Canberra lay in its own quiet valley about 400m from the centre of the Festival site. Beyond the dining marquee at left, lies more tents, showers and a camp oven built by Lord Iarnulfr. To its right are tents belonging to St Flos and itinerant campers, such as Crescent Isles visitors.

Camping/Tents

If you take up the St Florian camping offer, you'll get access to their facilities: join the http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stflorianencampment/ Yahoo Group to find out more, and ask questions about various options which are available . This offer can be very helpful indeed, but doesn't include personal tents or bedding.

Some period tents may be available on-site for a modest fee, see Logistics. Or you could bring your own lightweight dome tent, or ask a local contact to bring a spare, or hire something from the Festival equipment list at a fair cost (see this Festival booking sheet for an idea).

As well as St Florian, there are other friendly Baronies, Shires and Cantons happy to take travellers; for example, the Shire of Krae Glass is typically very child-friendly, and Arrowsreach has hosted Crescent Islanders in the past. So if you have contacts elsewhere, talk to them! That aside, there is a generic camping area at one end of the site; so long as you are happy to rely on general caterers or your own food supplies, this works perfectly well.

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Food

If camping with St Florian de la Riviere, you would be partaking of the St Florian's food plan. Otherwise, here are your options. Merchants offering food at Festival vary somewhat from year to year but tend to include:

  • A full all-meal plan (subject to availability, e.g. Crispin's Kitchen used to offer this for $90; there is no published offer for the next Festival but do ask on the Lochac mailing list)
  • Bakery items every day
  • Fresh milk, fruit, vegetables etc. brought in daily from the nearest town
  • Sausage-in-a-bun and similar for lunches (not necessarily available every day)
  • Nibbles at the coffee shop (biscuits, sweets etc)

We brought nibbly food and some fruit with us (there are convenience stores and fruit stands at Sydney Central station). Nut bars were good for emergency food.

There is carted-in water piped around the site, and it is drinkable, though most use it only for cooking or washing. Bring a couple of sachets of Raro/Refresh if you'd like a little flavour.

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Main Riverhaven encampment at the old (rocky, dusty) Festival site, with gatehouse and sizeable Baronial Dining Pavilion at left.

Climate/Environment

Superficially very like Canterbury Faire -- warm days, cooler nights.

The new site at Glenworth is much much greener than the old Crossroads site, with long narrowish (250 meters or so across) flat valleys surrounded by steep wooded hillsides.

Dust is highly unlikely to be a problem as the place is very well grassed for Australia, thanks to the extensive manuring efforts of the local riding school horses.

It should be sunny during the day and hence quite warm. You'll want plenty of sunscreen, ideally the stuff which includes Aerogard as the aforementioned manuring means there's likely to be a high population of flies (though there are promises that the horses will be taken off the range well before Festival to give the manure time to decompose; this should also reduce the fly population).

It may well be wet -- October 07 saw an extended lightning storm and rain, and there's evidence of some boggy areas on site. Plenty of dew collects on the grass, so you're advised to keep hems short and have at least two pairs of shoes/boots.

The valleys are very deep, which did make for very cold nights during the preliminary reconnaissance in October 2007. Once the sun is behind the hills, things cool off rapidly so, despite it being north of Sydney, don't expect it to be terrifcally warm at night. Warm sleeping bag and cloak and blanket or bundling partner are recommended.

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Venymous Fauna

Yes, it's there and no, it's probably not going to be an issue.

Personally, at the old site, katherine saw only ants, crickets and praying mantises and Bartholomew saw two spiders (one small, one larger) and a poisonous centipede he'd apparently been lying on (see right). At the time, we heard reports of two small brown snakes and a very rare scorpion. The carnivorous marsupial mouse surely doesn't count.

For the record, of the 80-odd St John's cases dealt with, almost all were either sunscreen requests or armour/fighting related. Of the four more serious cases, three were asthma and one a pre-existing condition; none at all were related to bites of any kind.

Sensible precautions include always wearing good shoes or boots, good hose to keep the ants off, shaking footwear and clothes out before donning them, walking with heavy footfalls (they are more scared of you than vice versa) and scanning your surroundings before/when sitting or lying down.

As the new site is considerably wetter than the old one, there are leeches, but these are likely to be confined to the bush-clad sides of the valleys and in moister areas. NB you do not have to be in water to have a leech lock on; they do move around on the damper ground. You can flick them off or drop salt on them or simply wait until it be enow and they'll drop off.

There are wombat burrows on site, and they were seen in October in the early morning. Also signs of wallaby -- check your camping area for natural deposits when setting up your tent.

Flies were a hassle in October, likely to be less so at Festival time, but it's recommended you invest in some Aerogard or its equivalent.

Lots and lots of birdlife, some of it even melodius and all of it early risers -- take earplugs if you don't appreciate a dawn chorus (the valley walls echo exceptionally well, so consider yourself warned, and don't camp near the tavern!).

Hiring a lightweight wooden folding chair for $3 may be a good idea if you really don't want to share ground-level with anything which is potentially noxious. We took tri-leg camp stools ($3 from Briscoes) and found them ultra light and very handy.

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Recommended clothing

This is a very personal thing. We both felt we'd taken about one or two items more than we actually needed. The new site might need more, particularly if it turns out wet. If you can, keep hems higher than usual (mid-calf will avoid the effect of "Rowany braid" from dew or mud). Consider packing at least one set in zip-lock bags so if you do get a dousing, you've got something the is guaranteed dry.

Anyway, from the most to the least important, here goes:

  • good footwear
  • hose or breeches (warmth, anti-insect)
  • very warm cloak or equivalent for night-time use, and as an extra blanket
  • warm hood, can also make good daytime sunshade
  • sun-hat if not using a hood
  • warm layer to add to normal clothes the moment the sun goes down (a plaid was a very useful item)
  • one or two sets of informal and cool daytime wear, with sufficient underclothes for 4-5 days (washing may be possible in the showers or elsewhere, but water is scarce)
  • maybe a classy set of daytime wear -- but remember this is a camping event, and ordinary Crescent Isles garb standards are quite high by average Terra Rosa standards

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Fighter-auction tourney -- four solid hours with five list-fields going at once! Taken from the large sunshade outside the tavern, Great Hall marquee in background, merchanting tents on either side.

Facilities

From 2008, Festival is held at a venue which is used to hosting large groups, but unlike Canterbury Faire, the area used by the SCA has little or nothing in the way of fixed buildings and facilities. Details are yet to be confirmed, but we likely to see:

  • A common shower block (most Barony or even smaller campsites also have their own shower arrangements)
  • Many good, clean toilet blocks (basically portaloos, but good quality ones; the ones near the tavern are best avoided at night if you wear turn-shoes)
  • A tavern, coffee-shop and bakery in a large marquee
  • Great hall (marquee with firm dance floor) for Court, bardic and dance
  • Numerous tented merchants open every day, and many more on market day -- some take credit cards but you should have ample cash just in case

It's a very large site, by the way, so expect to walk a lot unless your encampment is very central.

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Possible logistical support

Generally speaking, some or all elements of the following are usually in place for Crescent Isles visitors to Festival:

  • The long-standing St Florian "camp with us" invitation
  • A shuttle bus between the site and the nearest railway station in Gosford
  • Lady Tatya (formerly Arnfrither/Tina from Southron Gaard) and other Stowegians have offered billeting in Sydney -- contact her here.
  • Several ex-pats have in the past made "stuff" and may be able to arrange for it to be at the event, for example, Lord Iarnulfr has made portable holes and provided poles for banners, and usually also runs his on-site forge and general fabrication/repairs. [Now he is again resident in the Crescent Isles, his attendance at future Festivals is less assured].
  • Lord Iarnulfr has also offered several Viking tents for hire in the past, and may be able to do so on request, depending on storage and transport considerations: "you'd get a period tent of a size tall enough to stand up in, with a sod-cloth/groundsheet arrangement designed to reduce creepycrawlage, for about two/three people."
  • Duke AEdward and Duchess Yolande have previously brought useful "stuff" to the event from their home in Rowany, including bedding and the like. Subject to personal requests from travellers.
  • As in previous years, there may be a local here to handle NZ bookings/payment the St Florians' encampment.
  • Edmund, former Baron of Politarchopolis, has constructed a cannon for use by Southron Gaarders (and our allies) at Festival in return for one which has been built for him here.

If other items are required, consider asking our long-term allies and friends (Riverhaven, Rowany, St Florian de la Riviere and the Shire of Arrowsreach. In the past, much fighting and archery gear has been loaned at Festival when the need was made known to their Seneschals or B&Bs beforehand.

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Resource Links

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Miscellaneous Hints and Cultural Notes

It's well worth having a Pilgrim scrip bag: it's very handy to have a lightweight cloth bag with a good flap to keep out the dust. In this you'd keep lip balm, sunscreen, a drink bottle, nibble bar, a notebook and pen, a song book, a fluffy toy, and be prepared for any eventuality.

You should also strongly consider taking some small gifts -- you'll find someone who is worth giving one to (host, people who lend you bedding/tent, fighter auction etc.)

Remember your membership and authorization cards!

Combat archers should consider carefully whether to use their arrows in fort battles. If they resemble this year's, there are many targets of opportunity inside the fort, but they are jammed in so tight that significant arrow losses underfoot are inevitable. Even if you think you are firing your arrows only out of the fort, they may be inspected and then fired back in...

Bartholomew noticed that a kill from behind needs to be more pronounced in action-packed Festival wars than locally. It may have just been inexperience, but advice from others suggests that a very definite pressure from behind (safely making clear the target's incapacitation) needs to accompany the call and sword-across-visor steps.

Very important: no crossbows at Festival, period! Illegal in NSW without a special permit.

Any banners flown will need someone to take them in at dusk and sleep with them. Good-natured kidnapping and ransom of heraldry is high on the list of after-dark occupations for some Festival goers.

Pirate ship and village: sail gone, someone else's banner in its place...

When returning from Festival, don't describe your sword as anything other than a "stick" when checking it in. Pacific Blue, at least, will cheerfully ship it as a restricted item, meaning that it will be delivered to the NZ Police on arrival (without telling you). The Police will just laugh and hand it to you, but you'll waste time in any case.

Swords and shields and other wooden objects are fine to carry in both directions, but will need to be readily available for close borer inspection at Quarantine. Also true of any other wooden objects you have, such as dishes.

Things you should not take with you on your travels, e.g. two-edged daggers, can be found on this detailed list.

To add to "do I know this person?" confusion when there are around 1,000 people at Festival, modern names are more commonly intermixed in with persona ones than is the case in the Crescent Isles. Even a modern name has been known to enjoy a title, e.g. "Mistress Babs".

The natives are exceptionally friendly and welcoming to Crescent Islanders, and the shock of hearing someone who writes beautifully nonetheless talk with a Terra Rosa accent wears off after, oooh, five days or so.

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St Florian Encampment

The Barony of St Florian de la Riviere is happy to have Crescent Isles visitors join their encampment at Festival, which typically costs around $110-$120 plus some cooking/cleaning labour. For details, join the St Florian Encampment email list.

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Shuttle Bus to/from Gosford Station

Festival 2008 stewards have advised (as of Christmas 2007) that some kind of shuttle or bus service from Gosford will be provided, but precise timing and cost details are yet to be established. The cost may be relatively high (over $20 one way) unless the transports are kept full.