The UKs largest history festival got off to a fantastic start today in the Wiltshire countryside, with festival goers delighted to be back after two years absence. The sun is out, the bunting is up and the Panama hats have been dusted off for five days of talks and living history in the beautiful Chalke Valley.

Watching Dan Snow and the audience re-enact the Battle of Trafalgar

The Chalke Valley History Festival opened today with its customary aplomb and verve. Despite the reduced capacity of the audiences and the need for social distancing and masks, the enthusiasm of the speakers, volunteers and audiences remained undimmed and undaunted. Five of the six main lectures were sold out – and this on the first day – indicating that there is massive appreciation of this immersion in history over a few glorious days.

There are only two indoor tents this year, with socially distanced seating which has the added benefit of giving people plenty of room and much more comfort when listening to the talks. There is something so wonderful about sitting in a tented marquee, listening to a fascinating talk while looking at the blue skies and rolling hills outside, with the odd butterfly flapping past you.

The comfortable seated tents

To kick off the festival, Julian Orbach gave us a talk about his revision of the classic Pevsner's Wiltshire, recently released after seven years of writing.