THE sound of drums echoing across the Dales as a band of Viking warriors bore their load could have been a scene from centuries ago.
But the procession, which cut a striking image as it wound through a Yorkshire beauty spot, brought a chapter of history dating back around a 1,000 years into the present day.
A Viking carving, unearthedin the hamlet of Hartlingtonin 2005, was carried acrossthe River Wharfe at theweekend before eventually
being laid down in St Wilfrid's Church in the village ofBurnsall.
The Vikings in Burnsall festival was seen as the perfect opportunity to transport the artefact to its new home in the historic church which houses a collection of Viking crosses and hogsback tombs.
Thought to be a burial cross, the relic which dates back to the 10th century, was found on private land by heating engineers five years ago.
Among those who joined the colourful procession to transport the cross on Saturday was Jane Wood – who lives at the property where the stone was found – and her four-year-old daughter Gretel, riding a Shetland pony.
"We put a ground source heat pump in and when we were digging to lay the pipes our contractors found it," said Mrs Wood, 44. "It was very exciting. We had an idea that there was a settlement there before but we did not really know much about it.
"The reason we have made the donation is that it is important that these archaeological finds can be seen in one site so it will join the other archaeological crosses in St Wilfrid's Church. It would be very mean of us to keep hold of it."
Headed by drummers fromthe Batala Lancaster group, the cross was carried on a 19th century bier amid Viking horseback riders, local schoolchildren, clergy and a cross bearer and acolytes onto the green at Burnsall which had been transformed into a Viking camp.
The Rev David Macha, priest in charge of the parish of Burnsall, spoke of a little girl who had asked what all the fuss was about, declaring 'it's just a piece of stone'.
He said: "It is just a piece of stone but it represents the Christian faith here in this community for over 1,000
years and is the living symbol of the living faith that is still here now.
"If it was not a cross, if it was just a piece of stone, nobody would be that interested. It is the fact that it has been worked into a symbol that has potency today that makes it of interest."
Beneath the gaze of a giant wicker man, which had been built for the festival, visitors were offered an insight into the everyday lives of the Vikings courtesy of the Jorvik Vikingr group who had travelled from across the north of England.
The festivities included coracle races and an appearance by Tim Miller, the world champion of Hnefatafl – a board game known as Viking chess. The sculptor had travelled from Somerset to offer people a chance to play the ancient game.
As children splashed in the River Wharfe in the September sunshine, the smell of hog roast mingled with applause for the Penny Plain Theatre Company from Grassington.
Retired history teacher, John Townend, was among those who joined the journey of the Hartlington Cross to its new home.
The local history enthusiast was instrumental in helping to source its origin and past.
Following the find Mr Townend recognised the stone and called upon Dr Elizabeth Coatsworth, a leading authority on pre-Conquest stone sculptures, who identified it as being carved in the 10th century.
Mr Townend said: "I was really proud of the children who took part and it really gave the thing a little bit of seriousness.
"This stone was a Christian artefact from 1,000 years ago and it has been brought back to Burnsall in that way. There has been lots of interest. People have been looking at the notices which explain what it is."
The third Viking festivalbegan on Friday evening when people from Burnsall andthe surrounding villages converged on the green to enjoy mead before tucking into a Viking banquet in the village hall.
But preparations began much earlier with many people making their own costumes as a guide was published in the Burnsall News and some men cultivating beards for the occasion.
As the sun set on Saturday a flame-lit Viking boat cut a dramatic scene on the River Wharfe as it was ignited by burning arrows.
STONED CARVED WITH HISTORY
The stone carving was unearthed in 2005 at a place known locally as Chapel Hill in Hartlington near Burnsall in the Yorkshire Dales.
The 1,000-year-old artefact, which has become known as the Hartlington Cross, would have originally been at the top of a tall shaft marking the burial site of a Thegn or Chief in the 900s AD.
The carving shows the influence of the Hiberno-Norse style – Vikings who came to England from Ireland in the 10th century – indicating that Vikings settled in the area and adopted the Christian religion.
The name 'Hartington' is much older and stems from 'Heortla' and 'ingatun' which means the farm belonging to Heortla's people.