Time to come a’wassailing

Get out those old pots and pans – because we’re hosting a wassailing event.

Traditionally the event involves groups of wassailers drinking lots of alcohol and moving from orchard to orchard – singing, shouting, banging pots and pans and even firing shotguns in an effort to make as much noise as possible to awaken any sleeping tree.

We’re not expecting our event to be quite so riotous – but it will be fun and is aimed at providing an afternoon out for the whole family.

It is taking place at Etton High Meadow on Saturday, January 26.

The site hosts a number of fruit trees and a recently planted community orchard with more than 70 fruit trees including local heritage varieties such as Lord Burghley and Peasgoods Nonsuch.

We hope the wassail will awaken them to bear bountiful crops of fruit next year. So please bring some pots and pans to make a noise.

The fun starts at about 3pm and will go on until about 5.30pm.

As well as the traditional wassail (in a more civilised form) there will be musical entertainment with Alan Wood singing traditional songs and various events for children including making bird feeders out of apples.

It is expected to be cold so we will be using the barn (basic, but at least sheltered) and we will be having a bonfire to help you keep warm. We’re also hoping to turn this year’s crop of apples into some  very drinkable juice. There will also be refreshments

Traditionally the celebrations vary from region to region.  

In some cases a wassail King and Queen lead the assembled group of revellers, comprising the farmers, farm workers and general villagers, in a noisy procession from one orchard to the next. 

In each orchard the wassailers gather round the biggest and best tree, and as a gift to the tree spirits, the Queen places a piece of wassail soaked toast into its branches, accompanied by songs such as:

“Apple tree, apple tree we all come to wassail thee,
Bear this year and next year to bloom and blow,
Hat fulls, cap fulls, three cornered sacks fills…”

The wassailers then move on to the next orchard; singing, shouting, banging pots and pans, and even firing shotguns, generally making as much noise as possible in order to both waken the sleeping tree spirits, and also to frighten off any evil demons that may be lurking in the branches.

The custom of apple tree wassailing is celebrated across the country, on either the new or old Twelfth Night.  An original house to house version before Christmas was designed to obtain gifts from the Lord of the Manor in exchange for a blessing.  This has evolved into what we now know as carolling.

How to get there

Etton High Meadow is on the Maxey Road just outside Etton.  

From the Helpston road go past the Golden Pheasant pub and through the village towards Maxey.  You will come to a small hump back bridge. Cross it and Etton High Meadow is about 150 yards on the right through a gate.  

There is parking on site but please drive carefully because children may be already there. It is advisable to wear warm clothing and a torch might be useful because it gets dark early.