A record number of people turned out to toast to a good harvest, make a lot of noise and scare away bad spirits from the orchard.

Bridport Community Orchard’s ancient Wassailing celebration returned on Sunday, attracting around 250 people to chase away evil spirits from the orchard and welcome the good ones for a fruitful year and bountiful harvest.

Wyld Morris started proceedings with a selection of traditional Wassail songs, Dorset Nectar and West Milton Cider offered drinks for people to enjoy around the fire, as well as orchard volunteers serving hot spiced and plain apple juice, all made from fruit picked in the orchard.

Renowned storyteller Martin Maudsley took on the role of master of ceremonies, or Wassail Butler. He started with a story of The Apple Tree Man, the name given to the spirit of the oldest apple tree, before leading the Wassail ceremony where a king, John, and queen, Salud Botella, were crowned. They selected a special tree which is given libation, an offering of cider on its roots and cider-soaked bread in it branches.

Martin then introduced another folklore character, the Dorset Ooser, which is a horned-face mask and another element to frighten away any dark spirits from the orchard. The crowd joined in making noise with drums, whistles, pans and spoons.

Pieces of bread were handed round so that others could choose a tree to bless, give thanks to and place bread in the branches for birds to eat.

A spokesman for the Bridport Community Orchard said: “The organisers would like to thank all the orchard volunteers who are so generous with their time and skills and dedication, to the town council who provide support to the orchard, to Martin and the Mummers, Wyld Morris, the excellent cider makers - West Milton and Dorset Nectar - and Leakers Bakery who kindly donated the bread.”