Wonderful wassail at Steyning orchard

Mythago Morris performing a sequence of wassail-related dances
Mythago Morris performing a sequence of wassail-related dances

Steyning Community Orchard had a wonderful wassail on Saturday night to get the year off to a flying start.

Volunteers have a full programme of activities planned for 2017 and they set the ball rolling with the annual medieval ritual in the Memorial Playing Field, Steyning.

Scaring off evil spirits

Scaring off evil spirits

Bob Platt, one of the organisers, said: “About 120 people took part and were guided through the ceremonies by Mythago Morris.

“Mythago began the evening with a sequence of wassail-related dances and after an explanation of the rituals by their leader Andy Harvey, they led the crowd across the Memorial Playing Field to the orchard, where one of the older trees had been dressed with lights and bunting.

“The purpose of this ancient ceremony is to scare off evil spirits and wake the trees from their winter slumbers, so it involved a great deal of chanting, singing, rattling, banging and whistling. Lots of children took part, revelling in the opportunity to run about in the dark making lots of noise.”

After the ceremony, everyone was invited into Steyning Cricket Club, where Mythago entertained with some more music and dances.

Explaining the rituals

Explaining the rituals

All this took place in sub-zero temperatures, so the hot soup made by orchard volunteer Ronnie Reed was most welcome.

Entertainment continued with music by Pete Varkala and friends and local band, The Cheer-up Mollys. Everyone joined in a rousing rendition of a traditional Sussex wassailing song.

Mr Platt added: “This event marks the start of a busy period for the community orchard. There are four more trees to be planted in the Primrose Court Orchard restoration programme on February 4.

“More clearing work will be done in the Memorial Playing Field on February 10 in preparation for tree planting on February 18 and March 4, when a total of six trees will be added to the orchard.

About 120 people of all ages took part

About 120 people of all ages took part

“Finally, we hope that it will be possible to start planting trees in Steyning Downland Scheme’s Big Picnic Field. It is a busy schedule and the wassail has got it off to a flying start.”

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1 Make our website your homepage at www.shorehamherald.co.uk

Pieces of toast are hung on the branches as part of the tree ceremony

Pieces of toast are hung on the branches as part of the tree ceremony

2 Like our Facebook page at Shoreham Herald Facebook

3 Follow us on Twitter @Shoreham_Herald

4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!

The Shoreham Herald - always the first with your local news.

Be part of it.