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 and wassailing has become a popular pastime on twelfth night.
Wassailing is the special ingredient that goes into Herefordshire cider. So you may well ask what’s a ‘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.
Wassailing Events coming up in Herefordshire 2022
Date TBC, Leominster Morris will be wassailing the orchards, starting at The Bell at Tillington, HR4 8LE, 6:30 for 7.00pm. www.leominstermorris.org
Join Westons Cider for their annual “Wassail” with the Silurian Morris on Date TBC. Enjoy this rural tradition as they bless our apple trees to ensure a good cider harvest in 2020.
Refreshments will be served at the Cider Mill from 5.30pm before dancing at 7pm followed by the procession into the orchards at 7.30pm. Afterwards head back to the Cider Mill for refreshments, music and merriment.
No ticket is required for this event, but all proceeds raised on the night go to St Michael’s Hospice in Hereford. Westons Cider will match all funds raised for charity on the night.
As an award-winning cider pub, The Crown Inn at Woolhope embraces this great excuse for merriment on Date TBC meet at the pub at 5pm, before a torch lit parade steers to the orchard at 6pm. Just turn up with your family and friends, and ‘bring something noisy’.
All proceeds raised on the night go to St Michael’s Hospice in Hereford.
Take a look at our What’s On page for more brilliant events like these.