A QUIRKY tradition with ancient Somerset roots is being revived for another year near Highbridge on Saturday.
Burnham Rotary Club returns to Rich’s Cider Farm for its annual wassail – a pagan ritual to toast a good apple crop for 2014 – along with scrumpy and Western music from the Mangledwurzels, from 7pm.
“It goes on back for years and years,” says Bernard Raines, Rotary Club president. The whole idea is to try and drive away the evil spirits to ensure a fruitful harvest for the autumn.”
But how does it work? “We’ll carry the wassail queen in procession down into the orchard. Once we arrive at a cider apple tree, we’ll lift her up into the branches, where she will place pieces of toast, soaked in wassail, as an offering to the spirits.”
With cries of “Old apple tree, we wassail thee, and hope that thou will bear”, and the hope the old natural magic does the trick, Rich’s Farm’s bows should be laden with “hat-fulls, cap-fulls, and three bushels bag-fulls…” of apples come autumn 2014.
The queen, as ever, will be 14-year-old Molly Scott, daughter of Jan, who heads the family-owned Cider Farm. Hundreds are expected to enjoy the age-old practice, at Mill Farm, Highbridge (TA9 4RD).
Tickets cost £7.50 in advance from richscider.co.uk or on the gate. Money this year will go towards B.U.S.T, the breast cancer unit support trust.
A mug of mulled cider on arrival and a bowl of Somerset casserole will also be on offer, but not included in the ticket price.