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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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