Ridgeway village wassail with a flash, bang, wallop!
Oh apple tree we wassail you!
Under a bright moon, a crowd of more than 50 gathered at the Ridgeway village of Aldworth’s CAMRA award-winning pub The Bell on Friday night to observe the ancient tradition of wassailing.
They came to bless the old and much-loved apple tree in the beer garden, with drinking and singing to its health and to scare off evil spirits with an almighty noise, in order to ensure a bountiful autumn harvest.
Morris dancers from Kennet and Icknield Way sides led the ceremony, first with a merry dance outside the pub, then ushering the assembled wassailers to the apple tree.
Here their MC proceeded to wake the spirits of winter by leading the crowd, who were in good voice, in a rendition of Here We Come a Wassailing.
Then with a ‘hip/huzza’ rattle, howl and clatter, followed by the flash and ear-deafening volley shot through the tree by the Black Powder Muzzle Loaders from Thames Valley Gun Club, the evil spirits were driven away.
But then the good spirits had to be appeased with another dance, a mass chant of “Standfast Root! Bear well top! Pray god send us a good howling crop, Every twig, apples big, Every bough, apples enow” before the Lady of the Woods came forward to hang an offering of toast soaked in cider on the branches and cider was poured over the trunk.
After another traditional wassailing song and a final volley by the muzzleloaders, the business was concluded for another year and the wassailers enjoyed a warming cup of mulled wine, courtesy of landlord Hugh Macaulay.