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Wassailing Events in Devon and Somerset

Wassailing Events in Devon and Somerset

Wassailing Events in Dorset, Devon and Somerset

Even though they have been around for hundreds of years, I  know very little about the tradition of the wassail. If you’ve not heard the term before, it’s basically all about apple trees and cider making.  So I decided to do some research on Wassailing events in Dorset, Devon and Somerset. Maybe this year I’ll get along to one myself.

Cider Making in the West Country

We have been enjoying the fruits of our labour this year largely thanks to the hard work of my husband who has been making cider and also “champagne” cider. This is really lovely, as it turns the rough scrumpy into a much nicer drink with a fizz,  as it undergoes a double fermentation (technical stuff, I just drink it!). He’s not convinced we need to hold our own wassail ceremony this January to bless our trees, it could be fun though.

What is a Wassail ?

A wassail is a traditional ceremony to encourage new growth and a bountiful harvest to the apple trees. It usually takes place on the 12th Night  – this is now the 5th January, but Old Twelvey Night is 17th January,  as that would have been the correct date before the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752.

The wassail starts at dusk with the preparation of a special drink made in a wassail bowl. This seems to vary from place to place with anything from beer, warm cider or a sort of egg nog all being used.

The drink is carried to the orchard with everyone involved in the wassail.  There are rhymes to be chanted to the trees  – these also vary from place to place.  Here are some:

Wassailing Events in Devon and Somerset Apple blossom

Health to thee, good apple tree,
Well to bear pocket fulls, hat fulls,
Peck fulls, bushel bag fulls.

Blowe, blowe, bear well,
Spring well in April,
Every sprig and every spray
Bear a bushel of apples against
Next new year’s day

Hats full!
Caps full!
Bushel – bushel – sacks full
And my pockets full too! Huzza!

The wassailers are encouraged make a lot of noise, banging drums, clashing sticks even firing off shot guns to wake up the trees.  Branches of the trees are hit as well to encourage the sap to start flowing and to frighten away evil spirits that might be hiding amongst them. Some of the prepared drink is poured at the base of the tree and toast, cake or bread put into the branches to feed the good spirits.

These days some wassails carry on all the traditional practices. Others seem to be just a good excuse for cider drinking and a party!  There is lots more information online if you want to learn more about the traditions of the wassail.

Wassail Events in Dorset

Bridport Community Orchard – Sunday 13th January 2019

The annual ancient Wassail celebration will be taking place at Bridport Community Orchard on Sunday 13th January. The fun starts at 3 p.m., with the traditional Wassailing ceremony being led by local storyteller, Martin Maudsley.

There will also be musical entertainment provided by Wyld Morris, and everybody can join in singing songs and dancing around the trees, all of which will encourage a bumper apple harvest!

Cider and apple juice will be available, and there will be an open fire to keep the cold at bay. Please bring trumpets, whistles, drums, and anything that will make a noise to frighten away the bad spirits! The event is free and open to everybody.

Wassail Bridport Community Orchard

Liberty Fields near Yeovil – Sunday 20 Jan

Liberty Fields is based on a farm in West Dorset.  They specialise in unique apple-based products such as Apple Aperitif, Aged Apple Balsamic Vinegar & Porter’s Perfection Vodka, all made by hand in small batches, using the apples grown in their own orchards. 

They are holding a Wassail on Sunday 20 January, from late afternoon. There will be music, hot punch and much more!  All weclome. Closworth Road, Halstock, BA22 9SZ    More details here.

 

Wassailing Dorset Liberty Fields

Wassail Events in Devon

Sandford (nr Crediton)  – Saturday 12th January 2019

Join the Green Man and many other revellers to toast the apple harvest and hope for another good year.  Meet at the Square in Sandford and walk to the Millennium Green for a bonfire, morris dancing, an entertainment performance and Sandford Orchards wonderful mulled cider! Roasted marshmallows and hot chocolate will also be available in true Sandford Scouts style. Meet at Sandford Square at 6.30 – more here

Whimple – near Exeter – Thursday 17th January 2019.

Organised by Whimple History Society this event has really gown in recent years and sounds a great deal of fun. Starts at 6pm at The New Fountain Inn.  Whimple had a long tradition of cider making and the ceremony was restarted in 1993. All the traditional elements of the wassail are carried out. For more information click here.

Wassailing Events in Devon and Somerset

Stoke Gabriel Community Orchard – Nr Totnes  Saturday 19th January 2019

A traditional cider apple blessing celebration in Stoke Gabriel’s community orchard. Folk music, Morris dancing, face painting, storytelling and entertainment before the Apple Blessing Ceremony within the orchard. Hot homemade food, toffee apples, cakes and drink available and a well stocked Yarde Cider bar serving hot mulled scrumpy.  Gates open at 4pm. This is one of the larger wassailing events in the West Country. Organised by Friends of Stoke Gabriel Primary School. More details  near the time online here. 

Wassail Events in Somerset

Taunton – Freize Hill Community Orchard  – Saturday 12th Jan

A free family event in Taunton with a Murmers Play, the Big Noise Street Band, bonfire and refreshments.

Starts at 5pm  – Frieze Hill, Taunton, TA1 1EX

More details at  www.communityorchard.org.uk

 

Glastonbury Tor,  Avalon Orchard  – Saturday 19 January 2019

What a fabulous place to join in a wassail.  At National Trust Glastonbury Tor there will be a choir, children’s activities with Somerset Rural Life Museum, singing around the trees and storytelling by the fire.2pm – 6pm.  Pop-up cash bar to sample the fruit of last year’s crop selling pints of cider and glasses of apple juice. Tours of the Tor from 2pm and the wassail starts at 3pm.

Wassailing Events in Devon and Somerset Frieze Hill Taunton Wassail

Advance tickets are available to purchase online (click here).  In 2018 prices were Adults £8 to include pint of cider, hot food roll and car parking. Children £5 to include a drink and hot food roll. Entry on the day is  also available, parking £3.  The site will be cash only.

Glastonbury Tor wassail

Carhampton (near Dunster) –   Thursday 17th January 

Join this traditional event at Carhampton Community Orchard. Toasting the apple trees and shooting away the evil spirits. With music, snacks, hot cider – and West Somerset Morris Men appearing as if by magic from the darkness!

More at the Butcher’s Arms afterwards. Events details here.

Wassailing Events in Devon and Somerset Carhampton

Dunster – Buttercross Community Orchard  –  17th January (please check local press for details)

A traditional wassail event at Dunster was revived on 2012.

Schoolchildren arrive in the morning, douse toast with apple juice and hang it from the trees to attract good spirits. They bring tins and drums, sing the traditional Dunster Wassailing Song making enough noise to drive off any evil spirits.

In the evening from 7.30pm the adults arrive to attract the good spirits and continue the assault on the evil spirits.  Local musicians and story tellers entertain the crowd.  Cider and cake is served. After the revelry three or four villagers load their guns and fire off  rounds to drive away any remaining evil spirits. There is a torchlight procession through medieval village of Dunster stopping off at Luttrell Arms.  The evening finishes at Foresters Arms for more songs and stories.

The Sheppy’s Cider Wassail, Bradford-on-Tone – Thursday 17th Jan 2019

The traditional way to ensure a good harvest! The ingredients are noise, fire, guns, hot cider and lots of people to sing the Wassail chant and drive away evil spirits.

Dress for a mid-Winter orchard and be prepared to dance, sing and make lots of noise!

* Winter warming food on sale
* Cider bar
* Featuring Taunton Deane Morris
* Folk music 
* Ticket sales supporting St. Margaret’s Somerset Hospice

£11.25 admission (tickets limited) Book your ticket now by emailing events@sheppyscider.com. More details www.facebook.com/events  – Three Bridges, Bradford-on-Tone, TA4 1ER, Taunton.

Wilkins Cider, Mudgley, Somerset –  update,  no wassail in 2019

Wilkins Cider website link here.

Rich’s Cider – Friday 18th January 2019

A family run business producing Traditional Farmhouse Cider Farm pressed apple juice, with locally harvested Somerset apples for over 60 years.  Also a cafe / restaurant. Based in Highbridge, Somerset

Join the traditional Wassail ceremony followed by live music from The Skimmity Hitchers and dancing till late with DJ Bob Darch. Doors 7.30pm

Proceeds towards St Margaret’s Hospice Care and other local charities.

Tickets £7.50 (under 12s FREE) available online here

 

Wassailing Somerset Rich's Cider Farm poster

Great Local Cider

If you are looking for great quality West Country cider then have you heard of Norcotts Cider?

Based in East Devon, Norctotts Cider make a range of traditional and lovely fruit ciders. Each flavour uses only natural colours and flavourings with no artificial sweeteners which makes them less sweet than some of the more commercial ranges on sale.

You may have seen Chris at the Exeter Christmas Market or Axe Valley Show. His cider is available from a number of local stockists, pubs and restaurants, as lovely gift packs as well as to buy online.

Norcotts_cider
Norcotts Cider logo-badge

Well I really hope that you can get along to one of these events. If you can’t get then it sounds like a fun event to arrange at home.  Any apple tree local to you will do! Invite some children to make a noise, have a winter BBQ and drink some cider – sounds like it could be a way to brighten up January! Happy wassailing everyone.

Clare

This post has been kindly sponsored by Norcotts Cider.

6 Comments

  1. natalie williams

    I had no idea what this was, but love it! Thanks for posting, I especially love the cider.

    Reply
  2. Betty bradshaw

    Fascinating! Thank you I love hearing about new things and potential kids activities. Never heard of it before but sounds interesting and great fun. Bx

    Reply
  3. LynseY

    Wow. I’ve never heard of this. Sounds great. Learn something every day.

    Reply
  4. Lisa Jackson

    I’ve never heard of this either but it sounds like a lot of fun x

    Reply
  5. Natalie williams

    One of my favourite things, cider. I have never heard of Champagne cider though, sounds delicious.Wassail sounds so much fun, I had no idea this existed. Now we live near an a cider farm we must visit.

    Reply
  6. Rachel

    I love the idea of these events – bringing about growth – what a lovely idea. I love cider too so might have to visit a local cider farm!

    Reply

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About Clare

Clare Flipflops or WelliesHi! I am Clare and I live in glorious East Devon with my family. I love finding new places to explore in the West Country as well as further afield. I hope you enjoy reading and taking inspiration from my blog.

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