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Young wassailers bang out 'evil spirits' in annual tradition at Sawbridgeworth's historic orchard

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Young visitors to the annual wassail at Sawbridgeworth’s historic orchard made sure there would be no 'evil spirits' to blight the crop of fruit this year.

An invitation to bang buckets with sticks in order to drive out the spirits was too good to resist as a large crowd turned up last Saturday evening (Jan 18) for the blessing of the trees at Rivers Heritage Site and Orchard (RHSO) off The Crest.

The Ukes of Hazzard ukulele band kicked off the evening before the gathered throng was invited by flautist Zoe Dedman to sing wassailing songs as they warmed themselves by the fire.

Orchard " fireman" Dave Mead kept the fire going (27169822)
Orchard " fireman" Dave Mead kept the fire going (27169822)

Songs included the Lancashire Wassail and a Nursery Rhyme for Rivers before the crowd was invited to chant the Apple Tree Wassail of Somerset.

Then followed the bucket banging, before bread was attached to trees to feed the good spirits and a tree was blessed with cider to ensure a good 2020 harvest.

Volunteers manned a stall selling mulled apple juice and cider, along with apple cakes and flapjacks.

The annual wassail was launched in the 1990s after the orchard was restored and is one of the most popular events of the year.

RHSO volunteer and town councillor Eric Buckmaster revealed the work which had gone on to prepare for the event.

“A long day for us setting up, sorting the wood for the fire, preparing the paths, erecting gazebos and making sure everything is safe,” he said, estimating that around 250 people had attended.

Cllr Buckmaster added: “A great occasion for midwinter, enjoyed by all who came.”

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