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Thatcham wassails away

Tradition blesses community orchard and scares off evil spirits

PEOPLE made some noise for Thatcham’s Community Orchard at a wassailing event on Sunday.

And from the sound of it, there should be a good harvest this year.

The wassailing tradition involves a ceremony of singing and drinking the health of the trees, normally performed on Twelfth Night, to help them thrive.

The term wassail comes from the old Norse ‘ves heil’ meaning ‘be you healthy’.

Around 100 people gathered to sing and make noise to scare off evil spirits from the trees at the Thatcham, accompanied by the Kennet Morris Men.

The proceedings were overseen by wassail queen Erin Carpenter, aged seven, and King Edgar Ash, aged four, who were selected by mayor of Thatcham Jan Cover.

(See and order more pictures here)

The event was organised by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust in conjunction with Thatcham Community Orchard.

BBOWT community wildlife officer Jone Ayers said: “We should have a cracking harvest, even better than last year.

“I think we have made a good attempt at that this time, probably double the people we had last year.”

“This is for the whole community.

“It’s on the Nature Discovery Centre reserve, but it’s a public right of way.

“We wanted to just make children understand where fruit comes from.

“They see them in the shops, but they grow on trees.”

Enjoying her first wassail, Rachel Hammond said: “It’s a bit crazy, lots of fun and a really good turnout.

“Children love it and you get them involved right from the start, and good cake as well.”

Key volunteer for the community orchard Sally Mitchell said: “It’s gone really well. We’re really lucky to get some Morris dancers to come with us today.

“It just adds to the whole atmosphere having the music and the dancing.

“The whole point of this orchard is it’s a community orchard, it’s getting everybody to enjoy it.

“It’s a lovely day, a family event. The children enjoy it.”

For more information on the orchard, drop into the Nature Discovery Centre, visit www.bbowt.org.uk or visit the Thatcham Community Orchard Facebook page.

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