All posts by David Rowell

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.

Stroll into the New Year

Make a resolution to join our annual New Year’s Day walk – a gentle three-hour stroll through Langdyke countryside giving you the chance to shake off the old and get set for the new.

This year the walk will set off from the Hills and Holes car park, off Wittering Road, Barnack, at 1pm prompt.

The route has been planned by Langdyke member David Alvey who will also be one of the leaders and who knows the area well.

He says: “I’ve mapped out a route which I know well from multiple dog walks and will recce it a few days before to check for any specific issues, in particular muddy stretches.”

That said, it will be important to make sure that if you are taking part you wear the appropriate clothing and footwear.  

The route takes in several interesting nature sites across grazed grassland, typical arable fields (with two distinctly different forms of cultivation), some spinneys, hedgerows and even a spring fed pond and related stream/ditch. 

It provides a good overview of the Langdyke countryside.

Dependent upon the weather it is possible you could see  Red Kites, Buzzards, Yellowhammers, Skylarks and possibly Redwings and Fieldfares. 

Independent of weather it is likely you will spot corvids and, of course,  wood pigeons

The proposed route

Walk across Hills and Holes from the car park and out at the South-west corner along the public footpath that runs alongside Walcott Hall grounds.

Join the old Ermine Street route across the Western boundary of Walcott, past Southorpe Roughs SSSI and straight on to the southern end of Southorpe. Then back along the road through Southorpe  (a little narrow and with no footpath in places but is now a 20mph limit). 

We pass the Wildlife Trust reserve (SSSI), Southorpe Meadow and then continue out of the village towards Barnack picking up the public footpath along the old disused railway (through ‘Ufford Bridge Station’ which is potentially the only really muddy bit of the route). 

Turning left back into Barnack to enter near the cricket club and back across the road into the Hills and Holes. This takes about 1:30 hours walking the dog but that is at a brisk pace.

Short cut

There is a short cut across to the north end of Southorpe for those wanting a shorter walk (or weather is bad) and an extended route to take in a fourth SSSI (Southorpe Paddock) further to the south of Southorpe. This means a walk along a narrow unrestricted road and over a blind bridge so whilst New Years Day should be quiet on the roads I think it does present a more significant risk to participants.

  • Suitable walking footware is only really required if we have particularly heavy rain (or snow) or the local hunt or agricultural machinery has churned up sections of the path. The going underfoot is fairly dry and stable even in mid-winter.