Steyning Community Orchard. January 2017.'Happy New Year everyone!'
Why not carry your yuletide celebrations through to the end of January by joining us for our Wassail? Great for the kids - they'll love it! A bit scary and noisy, but great fun. A peculiarly English (and Sussex) custom that they should know about.
Community Orchard Wassail
Sat 21st January. 6pm. Starting at Steyning Cricket Clubhouse.
Wassailing is the very ancient custom of awakening orchards from their winter slumbers, and it is having a bit of a revival, due in part to the increasing numbers of Community Orchards around the country.
Here in Sussex this event used to be known as 'Apple Howling', and took place between Christmas Day and Twelfth Night (Old Christmas Day).
The word 'wassail' comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase 'waes hael', which means 'good health'. The wassail itself was a drink made of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar. It was served from huge bowls, often made of silver or pewter.
Our Wassail (or Howling) will be led by Mythago Morris, a local Morris team who specialise in bringing to life old English stories by dance, music, verse and song. Their version of the Wassail involves lots of hectic dance, music and song.
After an initial introduction and dance from Mythago, we will process by torchlight, banging pots and pans and making lots of noise (to ward off any lurking evil spirits obviously!) to the Community Orchard where the oldest and most venerable apple tree will be encircled and adorned with cider soaked toast, and have its roots soaked in cider from the Wassail bowl. This offering will hopefully ensure a good crop from the Orchard the following season.
Mythago will then relate the rest of the Wassail story, and lead us in further songs and dance.
Traditionally, gunsmen then shoot a great volley of shots through the branches to bring the event to a conclusion. (We will reluctantly have to omit this from our proceedings..!)
So with the Orchard rid of any evil spirits and the venerable tree having been 'Wassailed', we will leave the Orchard to recover, and make our way back across the field to the Cricket Club where you are invited to join us for hot soup, live music and bar.
We will ask for a contribution of £3 for adults and £1.50 for children at the door. If you are not staying for the social afterwards, there will collecting buckets for donations.
Be prepared for muddy conditions and wrap up warm. Bring torches and anything that makes a noise! Hope to see you there.
Apple Day 2016
October 1st now seems a long time ago, but we just wanted to say thank you to everyone who came along to support us. Pouring rain in the morning while we were setting up didn't dampen our spirits (much). But the sight of 500 people all enjoying an afternoon in the Orchard surrounded by good company, food, drink and music cheered us all up. Julia and Malcolm and the Gruffalo made it extra special.
Steyning Community Orchard's Apple Day is now a permanent fixture on the Steyning social calendar. This year it will be held on Saturday 7th October.
Steyning Fruit Map
We are making good progress towards creating an inventory of the fruit trees in Steyning, and have already got 36 sites registered with 39 different varieties of apple trees and 34 other fruit trees. Do get in touch if you've not let us know what trees you have in your garden. Email us at Steyningorchard@gmail.com
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More information about us and our Orchards on our website steyningcommunityorchard.org