A centuries old ceremony held in Knutsford last weekend at the Crosstown Community Orchard was hailed a success by residents.
The first community wassail at the orchard saw the Town Mayor toast the wassail tree to pray for a bountiful harvest from the trees in the orchard in the pagan-cum-mediaeval event.
A wassail (derived from the old English/Norse ‘waes hael’ meaning ‘good health’ or ‘be healthy’) is traditionally held around Old Twelfth Night when the orchard is blessed, the good spirits are awakened and the bad spirits are driven out.
The Crosstown Community Orchard Wassail was held as an opportunity to bring the community together in the orchard and toast the year ahead. Residents were entertained with performances from Ring Eye Morris Dancers and with a traditional Mummers Play performed by the Thelwall Morris Men. Music and singing was provided by local folk musicians who also led the community singing of a traditional wassail song.
“Our aim was to bring the community together for an enjoyable afternoon of traditional entertainment, food and drink and toasting the orchard for the year ahead. We were delighted with the turnout and hope everyone enjoyed Knutsford’s first wassail” said Adam Keppel-Green, Chairman of the Crosstown Community Orchard trustees.
Visitors were treated to mulled cider or apple juice alongside baked potatoes (provided by Waitrose) and fresh gingerbread (made with ingredients donated by CoOp). After the Town Mayor toasted the wassail tree, the community sang a traditional wassail song and children hung toast in the trees to bless them.
Residents praised the event on social media. Mike Wilding said “What a brilliant success. Well done to all involved in organising this wonderful new tradition for the town” whilst Ruth Williamson called it a “great community event” and thanked the trustees and volunteers for creating the orchard for the community.
The Crosstown Community Orchard was created in February 2021 and is open for the community to enjoy year round. The charity is currently preparing is programme of activity for 2022 which will include a summer BBQ alongside volunteer maintenance days and skill-based workshops.