So who IS Long Branch?
Long Branch is the combined effort of dark age/ early medieval re-enactors Rowan and Amy Pooley.
After entering this world by hatching out of a history book on the highest peak of a snowy mountain, Rowan was destined to be a re-enactor. He grew up with a passion for history, and his name starts with 'R'. Re-enactment also starts with 'R'. It was fate!
In 1995, these two Rs met each other, and have never parted since. Rowan's re-enactment has evolved over the years, with a focus on fighting merging into a broader interest in living history. Learning basic leather working and working as a carpenter's assistant, he started to hone his crafting skills, before traveling to England to take part in the re-enactment of the battle of Hastings, and enjoy his first foray into the British Museum.
Rowan continued to pick up other skills and improve the ones he had, returning to Australia and shifting his re-enactment focus to Danish Vikings.
This prompted a trip to Denmark, Poland and England, on an extended Viking adventure, where he took part at events in Trelleborg (Slagelse), Moesgaard and Wolin, furthering his knowledge base by visiting every museum and living history centre he could find, soaking up information like some sort of ... bearded ...Australian towel...thing (surely there's a better simile that can be used here?).
Though very active within re-enactment within Australia, this whole going to Europe thing became a bit of a habit, and yet again he returned for another historical tour, attending events at Trelleborg, Moesgaard and Wolin, and also to BorkHavn, and Hedeby Viking Markets.
With even more museum visits and research done, he started to get an idea of where his future was leading him.
(Note: Research ALSO starts with an 'R'! Just saying.)
Rowan since has focused on his passion for Dark Age jewellery, and has been working on improving his jewellery making skills. His re-enactment interests continue to migrate, with a shift of focus further east and south.
Currently he thoroughly enjoys his research on Conquest era Magyar as well as Liiv, and Baltic tribes in the 10th century.
Half man, half bear, half pig, Amy got into re-enactment when she and Rowan started dating. (CARBON dating! Hahah. Get it? Because of the history and the dating and stuff?)
Previously, she had been working as an artist ('A' Amy, 'A' artist) and after an illustration job that had lasted a couple of years, found herself uninspired to pick up her tools again. Having always been creative, she instead invested a lot of her time in random crafts to keep her hands busy, bush walks to keep her feet busy, and books and documentaries to keep her mind busy.
Family and friends were inundated with forced gifts of fingerless gloves and beanies. (That is, beanies, and gloves that are fingerless. Most beanies are inherently fingerless by design. Or at least certainly should be.).
After that, there was no turning the creative drive back off again. While moderately interested in history, Amy's deep passion is craftsmanship ('A' is for artisan!), and turning perceived 'dying crafts' into useful skills for daily life. Because of this, she feels that in so many ways re-enactment is an investment in the future more than it is a salute to history; a person equipped with broad skills has the world as their oyster.
She is also fascinated by runes (specifically the Long Branch Younger Futhark, hence the name Long Branch Reenactment!) and passionate about interpreting and re-interpreting our understanding of archeological finds based on the extensive testing of reproductions for practical use. In high school, she spent 2 years researching and writing about Norse Mythology for her 3 unit English elective.
Recently, Amy has joined Rowan in branching into jewellery making, focusing on creating replica jewellery specifically for women (who better to make Viking women's jewellery than a Viking woman?).
Currently, Amy's focus for her own kit is 10th century Hedeby.
And with our powers combined, we become...
Ramie! The historically accurate fabric!
(Oh man! Are we just an obnoxious couple or what!?)
The Ramie Adventures....
Sharing a love of adventure, Rowan and Amy hatched the plan to further their practical knowledge and put their kit to the test by wearing it on a hike to the peak of Australia's highest mountain - Mount Kosciusko. Through the snow.
They spent a furious few months researching, making suitable kit, testing and training, and recruiting fellow re-enactor Joshua Button to take a test hike up the mountain before the snowy months (making them the first vikings on Mount Kosciusko! Maybe a 1000 years or so too late, but better late than never!) , then taking another trip to the snow pre-trek to test their gear (and their personal aversion to cold) on some less challenging snowy hikes.
The gear all held up amazingly well, and the Dark Age fabrics surprised Rowan and Amy by far exceeding the practicality of even their best modern day hiking gear. Clearly the Vikings knew what they were doing!
In September of 2014, they invited a small handful of re-enactor friends to join them, and Rowan, Amy, Joshua Button, James Moss, Ben Smith and Mickey Scott became the first Vikings to trek through snow to the peak.
Once there, Rowan caused Amy to cry her eyes out by surprising her with getting down on one knee, presenting her with a historically accurate ring, and asking for her hand in marriage.
After much ugly happy crying (crying in such cold temperatures is even uglier than normal crying), there was much toasting and celebration. The gear worked! The trek succeeded! Rowan and Amy were getting married! And there was much rejoicing and merriment! There was even music and mead! And then....there was a long trek down again.
Of course, having succeeded in that adventure, Rowan and Amy needed a new project to turn their sights on, to devote their research and crafting to, and to prevent them from becoming so directionless and strange that the couple name 'Ramie' seemed like a good idea.
And thus Long Branch came into being as the next great adventure!
And so far, so good!
They find themselves increasingly passionate about it as time goes on, and with each passing day their knowledge and skill base expands, as does their circle of what they call their 're-enactment family'.
Long Branch is only very young, but has already taken them to three states, and been the catalyst for meeting some truly lovely people.
With things going well, it made sense to have somebody to share all this excitement with, and to pass on knowledge to. So in 2016, Rowan and Amy decided to try a whole new craft project: making their very own mini-Viking.
After all, it takes a child to raze a village!
In November 2016, Rowan and Amy were lucky enough to welcome their healthy (and very large!) mini-Viking into the world. To them, she is perfect, and they look forward to the next chapter of Long Branch, as a family of three.