A POPULAR tradition - that invites people to ward off evil spirits from an orchard - returned this winter to Bridport with a clash and a bang.

Taking a break last year due to the pandemic – wassailing returned to St Mary’s Field Orchard on Sunday, January 16.

See all the pictures by Graham Hunt Photography in our gallery

Wassailing is a traditional and old winter ceremony that focuses on the orchard tree and good health for the year ahead.

Alison Todd from Bridport Community Orchard Group said: “It was a lovely day with the event starting with music and dancing from Wyld Morris. As the crowd gathered further, the wassailing was led by Martin Maudsley. He appointed the wassailing king and queen by tossing two apples into the crowd.”

To ensure a fruitful year people were encouraged to bring a drum, trumpet, pan lids or anything noisy to create enough noise to scare away the orchard demons.

Ms Todd added: “They then blessed the tree, we scared away the bad spirits and fed the tree with some cider and bread. Everyone then ‘fed’ all the trees in the orchard! Martin led the singing all the way through proceedings!

“We had hot spiced apple juice made with juice pressed from the trees in our now very productive orchard. It was a lovely event and felt so good to be back.”

Wassail derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘waes haeil’ - to be healthy – so wassailing apple trees is a way to encourage good apple crop the following season, and plenty came to take part this year.

Ms Todd said: “We reckon that around 250 people came along to join in the fun. We raised over £300 which helps the volunteers to run the orchard on behalf of the community. This is £100 more than in 2020 and it apparently felt like a much bigger crowd than the last event to those who had been to both.”

Storyteller Martin Maudsley, who leads the wassailing, said: “I’ve led this one for seven or eight years, it’s a lovely recipe of a day. There’s a sense of community, trying to be thankful and grateful.”

If you are interested in volunteering or joining the committee you can contact the team via the Bridport Community Orchard website or through their Facebook page.