Photos by MAH Photographs
“WASSAAAIL!” is a rather raucous call you may have heard around these parts over the last few weeks. Many rural communities have re-kindled (or continued) the old ritual of Wassailing, one aspect of which is to wake up the orchard spirits and banish any bad ones to ensure a good crop in the coming year.
This year we combined our annual apple tree wassail with the early spring Celtic festival of Imbolc - a time in the old agrarian seasonal calendar when plants, trees and hibernating animals are beginning to stir from their winter slumber. Little signs of spring are pushing their way through the soil to remind us that winter does come to an end, the days are getting longer and the warm summer sun will soon return.
85 farm supporters, volunteers and staff wrapped up warm and braved the winter wind for farm tours, which had participants looking out for evidence that spring was on it's way, followed by a merry celebration of traditional and modern folk songs, complete with delicious local apple cakes and mulled juice. Heads were festooned with willow crowns, songs were learnt, harmonies bellowed, pots and pans clanged. The young apple trees that line the track through the centre of the farm were blessed and adorned with cider-soaked toast. A brave and noble “Wassail King and Queen” blessed the trees (and their noisy local subjects), all in the hope that they will bring a bounteous crop this summer.
I have been involved with The Community Farm since its early days, and as a local organic grower supplying produce to the box scheme it has given me great pleasure to be involved in these rituals over the past few years. Together we are beginning to weave in more seasonal celebrations into the farms calendar, basing them around some of Britain's ancient Celtic festivals to mark the changing of the seasons in the agrarian year. They are a wonderful excuse to gather, to connect back to the land and the cycle of the seasons, and to celebrate The Farm's journey and all who are involved, including loyal customers!
We look forward to seeing you at our next gathering in late spring/early summer...watch out for more info in the newsletters.
Susanna Waters - Strode Valley Organics.