Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Wassailing @ the Ferry Boat 2014

Rec'd (via group email) from Katy Addrews

About 70 people from all around the world joined in "Apple Yowling" in the beer garden at the Ferry Boat Inn on Forest Road, on Saturday 11th January. The seven apple trees in the garden are the last survivors of one of the oldest remaining orchards in north-east London, probably planted in the 19th century when the Inn was still also a working farm.

"Apple Yowling" is the local name in South-Eastern England for "Wassailing" apple-trees - the word comes from an Anglo-Saxon phrase "waes hael!" meaning "be healthy!"

This ancient custom is carried out in England between Christmas and Old Twelfth Night (17th January), to bless apple trees - and beehives, since bees pollinate apple trees - to wake them up for the Spring and encourage them to grow and bear good crops of apples in the coming year.

The evening started by singing a Wassailing Song from Gloucestershire, wishing the Landlady of the Inn a prosperous and healthy New Year.

The Wassailers then went into the orchard and hailed the seven apple trees with a toast to each. As each tree was wassailed, a libation of cider was poured around the roots, symbolically returning some of the goodness of last year's apples to the Earth as a thanksgiving.

Hazel, aged 5, from Leyton was elected as "Tom Tit" for this year, and was then put into one tree with toasted bread dipped in cider held on a toasting fork, to be left in the tree's branches to feed the robins.

Many of the younger people present then held hands and danced around the tree singing the "Apple Tree Wassail Song" from Carhampton, Somerset.

Everyone then made as much noise as possible, to dispel any lurking evil spirits in the branches! Then Wassailers returned to the Inn for hot mulled cider and a traditional singaround session led by a folk choir drawn from across north London.

The Ferry Boat Inn is now closed until the 24th January for refurbishment and some alterations to the garden, but the apple orchard will be left undisturbed and we all hope to return for another "Apple Yowling" evening next year.

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