Hail apple tree! Hail good health!


If the idea of “wassail” conjures up shivery images of rain-swept orchards, mud under very cold feet, people with leaves in their hair, and a lot of increasingly merry joshing with flagons of cider, mead or ale and blanks being fired into the air … think again.
Working with Bruton’s At The Chapel cafe and arts venue, Oliver Dowding and Jane O’Meara have arranged a wassail with a difference on Saturday 20th January, to celebrate Dowding’s Apple Juice and Cider and raise funds for the locally based Pitcombe Rock Falconry.
Rather than the usual wassail in the chilly ambience of a January night, this event is intended to be an introduction to traditional wassail and a fun event to celebrate Somerset’s great cider heritage and enjoy some singing and dancing with one of the area’s newest Morris sides.
There will be a talk by Oliver Dowding, whose award-winning ciders include gold at the British Cider Championships (at the Royal Bath & West Show) for the Dry Still Cider (2023 and 2021), Kingston Black apple juice (2023) and Wild Orchard apple juice (2022). The ciders and apple juices have also won silver and bronze at the championships, as well as Great Taste Award stars. Other speakers include Alan Wells of Pitcombe Rock Falconry and historian Andrew Pickering as well as Tracey Smythe of Castle Cary’s Maison Catelier, selling Wassail candles.
Traditionally held on Twelfth Night, the wassail ceremony is intended to wake the apple trees from their winter slumber, chase away evil spirits and ensure a bountiful harvest. Jane describes this new-style indoor event as ‘a collaboration’ between local business and groups to support the Pitcombe Rock Falconry, which has recently located after being made homeless last year.
She says: ‘The evening will have a wassail theme, encouraging local people to discover the many varied ways in which people can celebrate wassail in the South West. At its heart, wassail is a celebration of local distinctiveness, which means every wassail will be different.’
At the Chapel has provided the venue, with an outdoor terrace. The event starts at 5pm, and the party should go with a swing, with mulled cider, and the recently formed Wild Moon Morris, a new Border Morris groupt.


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