If you have an apple orchard, and especially if you’re hoping to get some cider from it, then one tactic to ensuring a good harvest is to Wassail it. Briefly, this consists of alternately bribing the trees with gifts of toast dipped in cider, and frightening evil spirits with noise and ructions.
Over at Hogacre, we’ve been assisting doggedly wassailing their orchard for some years. As far as I know, none of the trees have yet to produce fruit. Obviously without our efforts things would be in an even more parlous state.
As usual, this year we did a few dances while the crowd waited for darkness to arrive.
Then in the gloaming we head over to the smallest tree in the orchard, where master of ceremonies Tim Healy explains wassailing and related customs, and leads the crowd in singing and noise.
The Plough at Long Whittenham is another of our regular summer stops, and it was great to be back in their garden. There were a goodly number of locals there, enjoying a warm late July evening. Unusually, not many of them ran away the minute we got going.
We’d been hoping some of Towersey Morris might also turn up, but in the event we were undisturbed.
We did our usual thing – some dances followed by some tunes and songs as night fell.
In truth, we remain a bit rusty and unpractised. But after the last 18 months, we’ll settle for being rusty and unpractised but out dancing again.
No, we don’t restrict our outside-Botley dance outs to pubs named ‘The N Bells’. Really.
The Eight Bells at Eaton is an old favourite of ours, and while they were still restricted to largely outside activity, the weather was up to allowing us to mildly disturb those enjoying a summer evening with food and drink.
We also took a good look at the pub sign. It’s relatively new, and painted by our very own BarberaP. It looked quite magnificent in the evening light. She’s also restored the predecessor sign on which it’s based, which now hangs inside the pub.
We weren’t overflowing with dancers, and were interrupted by the arrival of spring rolls and chips that required attention, but as a way of losing a bit more of our dance rust, it was very just what we needed.