Thursday 18th January saw nearly 300 revellers descend upon Sheppy’s House of Cider to celebrate the ancient tradition of Somerset orchard wassailing. This long-standing ritual is an important part of cidermaking heritage as it chases away the ‘evil spirits’ in the orchard, awakens the benevolent ones, and ensures a plentiful harvest.
The ingredients of a good wassail are noise, fire, guns, hot cider and plenty of people to sing and shout the ancient wassail songs. The proceedings were expertly led by Mike Highfield and the Taunton Deane Morrismen, who guided the gathered crowd through the ancient ceremony with plenty of singing, dancing and noise-making. And lots of cider of course!
David and Louisa Sheppy – the 6th generation of Sheppy’s cidermakers in a line that dates back 200 years - welcomed the crowds and crowned their eldest daughter Rosamund as the Wassail queen. The Wassail queen’s role is pivotal as she toasts the crowds, waters the tree’s roots, places cider-soaked toast in the apple tree boughs, and leads the crowds in honouring the trees and ensuring a bountiful orchard.
Ticket sales were supporting St. Margaret's Somerset Hospice, with a final donation of £600.
Photos used with kind permission by Fran Stothard.