Very few explorations make me feel as though a knight might appear at any moment ready to slay dragons before where I stand…in fact, not a single exploration has ever made me feel that way until one of my most recent.
Stationed on land formerly owned by George Washington’s mother sits the forgotten grounds of Virginia’s Sherwood Forest; a former Renaissance Faire once filled with mead and merriment, now being uncontrollably swallowed back into the Earth with the passing of time. As years slowly creep by, further and heavier damage befalls this strange and serene town stuck in the 1700s. Walking through every separate portion of these former faire grounds delivers a rare feeling, as though I had traveled back in time, was dropped into medieval days and should now be hiding for fear of being burned at the stake, considering the magical soul stealing box always hanging from my neck.
Through the 1700s, it had become difficult to find a place in Virginia not owned by the Washington family. The Washingtons seemed to own EVERYTHING, including the land that this faire had eventually taken over, now of course being reclaimed by the land itself. The faire was opened during summer of 1996 as a tourist attraction by a company called “Renaissance Entertainment Corporation.” However, after only a few short years of entertainment through the excitement of jousting, massive turkey legs and awkward corsets, strong weather had begun to take a toll on the entire place, eventually turning it into ye olde post-apocalyptic land it hath today become…eth.
Though I had never taken part in one of the faire’s events, I found myself reminiscing about how the days of merriment spent here must have gone. I stood motionless at the middle amidst a quiet strip of town; rows of crumbling shops stared in at either side of me as I attempted to take in the empty atmosphere of such a bizarre location. I tried envision groups of happy laughing people, skipping along through crowds, dressed in their best faire attire, ready to absorb themselves with life, sights and sounds of the 1700s. I began wandering from my stationary spot, making my way across the crisp brush of overgrowth, pacing slowly from side to side while examining each broken structure that I passed by. It was completely surreal to view something of this genre abandoned. The world around me seemed as if I had been transported into some type of alternate reality. The village continued far into the forest, spanning past strips of shops, bars, even game corners.
Magnificent Tudor houses, stone castles, amazing arch ways, among other incredible middle age architecture make up this 100+ acre plot of land stretching through the forest. Sat center of it all was a quite an unusual site – a decaying pirate ship. The ship has definitely seen better days, but after years of neglect you can only expect so much. Docked at the water, this was used to provide seating for park guests to relax at the lake, because when you are at a renaissance faire, it is quite necessary that you enjoy moments such as this in the style of a pirate from the 1700s.
Once R.E.C. noticed that they were not making a profitable gain, mainly due to large storm activity over the faire, all items deemed important were moved from this park to numerous others that the company owned at different locations, while everything else was left behind like a massive aboveground time capsule. Nearly 16 years have passed since the park’s closure in 1999. Overgrowth has taken root, made its mark and will most likely not be leaving anytime soon. Visiting this place is of ill choice, considering that a hunting club now controls part of the grounds and during hunting season, if you don’t present yourself brightly in an orange vest, I would just hope that you have some practice with dodging a bullet.