Morris dancers to bless apple trees

The Wassailers hope to help create a bumper apple crop

January 13, 2009

A MYSTICAL British tradition will take place at Garden Organic this weekend.

The Wassail, a custom originating in the cider-making regions of the South West of England, is celebrated on the Sunday closest to old Twelfth Night and involves blessing apple trees to ensure a bumper apple harvest in the coming year.

Coming from the Anglo-Saxon phrase ‘wes hal’, meaning good health, the Wassail is believed to banish winter’s blues to make way for spring.

And to celebrate this custom, Garden Organic is inviting visitors to join in the fun at its ten-acre site from 12noon to 3pm.

Events manager Graeme Elliott said: “The Wassail is a fun and energetic custom which really brightens up a cold winter’s day.

“Coming to see the spectacle is a great opportunity for families to get outdoors and enjoy a colourful tradition that has been celebrated for centuries.”

Revellers at the event on Sunday (January 18) can witness the Elephant Up a Pole Morris dancing group re-enact the traditional custom in Garden Organic’s apple orchard.

The group begins by saluting a special apple tree. Next cider-dipped bread is placed onto the branches to attract robins, which are said to bring good luck.

Ending with a bang, the wassail culminates in a blank shot being fired to wake the orchard from its winter sleep.

Throughout the event visitors to Garden Organic Ryton can also enjoy watching Elephant Up a Pole demonstrate different styles of dance with sticks, swords, handkerchiefs and bells between 12.00pm and 1.30pm.

The wassail re-enactment begins at 1.45pm in Garden Organic’s apple orchard, which is over 20 years old and has more than 20 different apple trees to see.

A ticket admitting one adult and one child costs £6. Additional children cost £3.
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