A VIKING longship packed with a raiding party of fearsome warriors ‘sailed’ into St Helens on Saturday.

Even though the real Norsemen who came plundering and pillaging to England more than 1,000 years ago would probably have left the town centre a smoking ruin and carried off our young women for a life of slavery, these modern raiders were welcomed by hundreds of enthusiastic fans.

Viking Day, organised by St Helens Council, was held in Church Square, and featured longboats and battle re-enactments, as well as navigation and seamanship demonstrations, net and rope-making events and an archery talk.

Visitors to the Viking camp got the chance to see cooking and embroidery displays.

For younger visitors there was Viking storytelling, interactive workshops, toys and games.

Away from Church Square there was themed entertainment including stilt walkers.

What archaeology tells us about the Vikings and their lifestyle figured prominently in the day... for example the way the Vikings buried their dead along with their artefacts.

In later years the Vikings came more to settle and farm local land at places like Kirkby and Skelmersdale, and lived alongside the native English population.

So while many in the audience might not have realised it, they could well have Viking ancestors, as there was intense colonisation of this part of the UK from the Wirral right up to the Lake District.

Vikings not only gave their own names to settlements but Norse words came into our language too like fell for a mountain, tarn for a small lake, kirk for a church and dale for a valley.

For more information about what’s happening in St Helens go to whatsoninst helens.com or telephone 01744 675492.