If you live in south Bristol you’ll be pleased to hear that the trees in the Totterdown Community Orchard have had their demons cast out.
In the ancient ceremony of Wassailing, local villagers gathered to make very loud noises, using pots, pans, wooden spoons and the human mouth and vocal chords, and to drink cider punch.
This is to wake the trees from their winter sleep and inspire them to produce an even better crop of apples for cider this year. We also hung bits of toast from tree branches, to let the trees know we were drinking their health. Some people also poured cider on to the trees, although this struck me as a bit cannibalistic.
The Totterdown Community Orchard is at the bottom of Park Street (The Totterdown one, not the city centre one). Purists may point out that only a few of its trees are actually apple trees. But apparently other types of tree also enjoy being wassailed at, and anyway, it never does any harm to cast out demons wherever you find them.
During the proceedings we sang this song, for which we thank the venerable English folk group The Watersons.
“Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green, Here we come a-wandering so fairly to be seen, Now is winter-time strangers travel far and near, And we wish you, send you a happy New Year.
“Bud and blossom, bud and blossom, bud and bloom and bear, So we may have plenty of cider all next year; Apples are in capfuls are in bushel bags and all, And there’s cider running out of every gutter hole.
“Down here in the muddy lane there sits an old red fox, Starving and a-shivering and licking his old chops; Bring us out your table and spread it if you please, And give us hungry wassailers a bit of bread and cheese.
“I’ve got a little purse and it’s made of leather skin, A little silver sixpence it would line it well within; Now is winter-time; strangers travel far and near, And we wish you, send you a happy New Year.”