Wood for the trees

The past week has seen final preparations for film shots with the fair stalls taking shape in the background along the south beach. 

There is little guidance here from the historical record as to where different parts of the fair were placed. It may be that some of the most significant transactions were sealed at a public place, a ancient stone, near St Marys: a long walk up the hill, with plenty of opportunity to rethink the deal.

Here, we are preparing the farm/town produce, street-food, pottery and other 'high value' stalls for the sands between the East and West Sand Gates. We will put the animals and skin markets in yards built along the Kings Highway inside the New Borough walls/enclosure - to prevent accidents with stock helping with the gleaning taking place outside the walls (the nightly return of the sheep flocks will create its own inevitable tension). Large exports/imports (eg, wool, salted fish) might have been kept closer to the port itself perhaps in barn-like structures to keep the bales out of the rain (1 in 3 days) - which being outside the walls might have been more reminiscent of old Saxon halls than modern crucks inside the walls.

In addition to provisioning for the fair, we have been cleaning up the foliage assets on set. At last count, there were about 10,000 trees/bushes and maybe 100 times that number grasses etc - including a surprising 500 apple trees (one of the orchards will be shortly cut down to create monastery grounds). 

Outside the New Borough Walls beyond the commons, the town children shepard the flocks of sheep and goats in the thinning oak forests along the Kings Highway to York. Thinning but not yet gone - and while the trees sit largely in the background, each asset group has to be carefully managed so that together they do not over burden the engine's memory during film shooting (shooting is a memory intensive operation - depending on the circumstances each frame can be shot 8-512 times before being averaged). To help with the thinning, we have added a water-wheel driven saw in the wood mill outside the town walls (a necessity for the building of galleys for the Kings navy).

Here the tree groups (oaks, beeches, elms, hazels, chestnuts, apple, poplars, hawthorns, blackthorns and willow etc) are being tested before being re grown. And then there are the smaller vegetative fry (including 22, 000+ grain stalks, not to mention the herbs of our healer Abby, the multitude of other weeds, grasses and fallen leaves that cover the landscape, and the crops and flowers planted deliberately). 

Of particular interest this time around will be the placement of willows - an important part of the house/wall building, a key ingredient in storage solutions (baskets) and a useful long-term aid to soak up surface water. The Roman agricultural writers counselled farmers to reserve 1/10 of their land for the useful willow.

Here are some of the 50 larger tree prototypes we are using on set. Some of these have more than 10,000 leaves.

In addition to optimizing the foliage we have taken the time to add seasonal variations to each tree variety - allowing us to cover the change of seasons as the series moves through autumn to winter (oak and hazel below).


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