ANCIENT local traditions were brought to life in the area at the weekend.

Oldfields Farm at Frith Common, where the popular Oldfields cider is produced, hosted a wassail on Friday, January 12, a centuries-old tree blessing ritual that is said to help promote the growth of cider apples.

With all the tickets having sold out before the event, it was no surprise that a large crowd braved the cold, winter night to see the archaic ceremony take place.

After filling up on beer, cider and locally sourced food, locals were invited to take part in an atmospheric, torch-lit procession from the cider shop, through an intricate willow archway and into the farm’s working orchard.


The crowd gathered in a circle around a specially selected tree that was to be celebrated as a representative of all the trees in the orchard.

Josh Thompson, a member of the family which has owned Oldfields since the 1960s, took charge of the ritual alongside his fellow morris men from the Leominster Morris.

A holly bough was first burned, representing the rebirth of the sun after the winter months, with a ‘fire of eternal renewal’ being set ablaze before being instantly extinguished and saved for next year, after which the audience was invited to light twelve bonfires on the edge of the circle, symbolising the twelve months of the year, the twelve hours of the day and the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ.

After lighting the fires, a libation of the previous year’s cider was offered to the tree in the hopes of encouraging a good yield of apples.

The audience was then encouraged to shout and scream whilst a shotgun was fired to scare off the evil spirits that were said to inhabit the orchard.

Two morris dances were then displayed before the audience left the orchard and returned to the cider shop to close off the evening with more dancing and a performance of the Mummers play, a folk play depicting St George battling a variety of enemies who are slain and resurrected.

Whilst the wassail came to a close after the play, the merriment lasted late into the evening with members of the Leominster Morris sitting down with locals and playing a variety of traditional tunes in the cider shop.