ALL HAIL THE APPLE ‘WASSAIL’
One of the jewels in Herefordshire’s crown is cider, its origin, heritage and traditions. With a wealth of inspiring small and larger makers Herefordshire’s ciders are now in demand across the globe.
What some may not know is that there is a special ingredient that goes into Herefordshire cider and that’s the apple ‘Wassail’. So what’s an apple ‘Wassail’? Well it was a practice first recorded in 1585 and Wassailing (Wassail meaning ‘Good Health or Be Well’) is an Anglo-Saxon custom in cider producing regions of England. So, as Herefordshire produces over half of the UK’s cider, we invite you to take part in this traditional event that blesses the orchards and promotes a good harvest for the coming year.
Wassailing, on around Twelfth Night in January, brings many together to drink a concoction of mulled ale, served in huge silver or pewter bowls and mixed with curdled cream, apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar, small pieces of toast are often added and float on the top, its appearance leading some to call the drink ‘Lamb’s Wool’.
With a torch light procession between orchards, a wassail King and Queen lead the song, with the Queen lifted up to place the toast, soaked in wassail from the Clayen Cup, as a gift to the biggest tree. With a greeting of ‘Wassail’, cider is poured onto its roots, an incantation recited and those present sing, shout and bang drums, pots, pans etc. to ward off evil spirits. Then it’s off to the next orchard, usually ending at a pub. It’s great family fun.
It has become quite an event in both North and South Herefordshire and is always well attended by the regulars and those with a curiosity and fascination for folklore and tradition. Leominster Morris and Silurian Border Morris take charge of the proceedings which may include torch light processions, reciting ancient poems and laying cider infused slices of bread or cake at the roots of the apple trees of a chosen orchard. A sight to behold for those watching and crowd participation is always encouraged especially when the word ‘Wassail’ is mentioned.
If you have not been before we highly recommend it as a unique experience to connect back to nature and the traditions and rituals of our Herefordshire ancestors.
Keep an eye on our What’s On guide online for more details.
On Sunday 6th January, Leominster Morris will be wassailing the orchards, starting at The Nags Head, Canon Pyon, HR4 8NY, 6:30 for 7.00pm.
On Saturday 12th January join the Leominster Morris for a winter Wassail to bless the orchards at Brockhampton Estate, WR6 5TB, 2.00 – 4.00pm
On Friday 18th January join the Orchard Origins Wassail at Queenswood Country Park, HR6 0PY, 4.00 – 7.00pm, procession at 5.30pm.
Join The Much Marcle Wassail by Silurian Border Morrismen which is hosted by Westons Cider on Saturday 5th January for an apple celebration and wassail supper.
Dancing will be at 7pm followed by a torchlight procession into ancient cider orchards. Join in the Wassail Supper at the Scrumpy House Restaurant afterwards. Pre booking only 01531 660626 Limited space.
As an award-winning cider pub, The Crown Inn at Woolhope embraces this great excuse for merriment on Saturday 19 January meet at the pub at 5pm, before a torchlit parade steers to the orchard at 6pm. Just turn up with your family and friends, and ‘bring something noisy’.
Photo: Courtesy of Richard Shakespeare