The New Year has well and truly started now! This afternoon we went up to Old Sleningford Farm in North Yorkshire for a special event called a wassail.
First of all, we cut the last year’s branches off the willow trees. Some of these will be used to make chairs. The rest we used to make wreaths to wear during the wassail later in the evening.
Then with our headdresses, drums and torches we went out to the apple orchard to make as much noise as possible. This is a pagan ritual which I had previously thought took place in Cornwall but I have now learned that if it is more common in the West Country this is because of the cider orchards there. In other words, the wassail is to waken the orchard for a bountiful apple crop and thus lots of cider in the autumn.
The smallest person in our group was chosen as the Queen of the Wassail. She climbed into one of the trees while a final tour of the orchard was made by the rest of us as we banged our drums. Then a rhyme was said and slices of toast left in the branches for the tree spirits.
The willows that were part of this ceremony are now ready for their own growth this year. Or almost…. It was too dark to finish the coppicing but here is a view over the pond by the willows as the sun set on the first Sunday of 2015.