A wet but wonderful Wassail

By Catherine Barkley in Local People

The rain clouds parted on Saturday night, which was perfect timing for the hundreds who gathered at Westons Cider to begin the Much Marcle Wassail and the outdoor festivities. The event proved to be a great night of music and merriment with many visitors joining in the ancient custom of Wassailing.

The pagan ritual of blessing the trees to ward off evil spirits and ask for a bumper harvest has enjoyed a minor resurgence in recent years, as cider has regained in popularity. Organised by the Ledbury-based Silurian Morris Men, it is also an opportunity for them to perform historical songs and dances from the Welsh Borders and surrounding areas. The Morris Men delighted visitors with their songs, dancing and cheerful humour.

Crowds gathered at the cider mill at 7pm, with many guests enjoying a warming glass of mulled cider before watching the Morris perform. Fire torches were lit and handed out as the procession was led down to one of Westons’ oldest orchards for the Wassail to take place.

The Silurian Morris Men invited some children to step forward to hang cider-soaked toast from the trees and several bonfires were lit to scare away anything that could prevent the trees from producing fruit this autumn.

Gemma Evans, Communications Officer at Westons Cider told the Ross Gazette: “This was my first Wassail at Westons and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the sight of everyone holding a fire-lit torch and marching down the hill shouting ‘Wassail’ was great.

“We had lots of families joining in with some visitors coming from as far away as Billericay in Essex. The Silurian Morris Men do a fantastic job of organising this free event, with all money raised on the night going to St Michael’s Hospice. Figures are still being confirmed, but Westons will be matching the figure to help out this great cause. Thank you to Silurian and everyone who made it on the night.”

“Westons cider apple crop relies on Silurian wassail every January,” claims the ceremony’s Butler, Ian Craigan. “Without it the world would be a drier, duller place. And St Michael’s relies on local support too.”

After the orchard festivities, the evening continued in The Slip Tavern, which opened its doors especially for the event. The Inn will have an official opening, later in the spring. After a chilly night outdoors, it was a welcome conclusion to what was a magical evening.

During the evening, somehow the Wassail cup went missing. Gemma told the Gazette that it is a porcelain ‘po,’ which belongs to one of the Silurian Morris Men and is a family heirloom. Gemma said:?“Westons Cider will provide a meal for two in the Scrumpy House (to the value of £50) to see the Wassail cup’s safe return. Call 01531 660 190 if you know of its whereabouts.”

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