Cider orchard receives traditional ‘blessing’

Annual wassail held to promote harvest and harmony.

A NORTH Devon apple orchard received its annual “blessing” at a cider-soaked ritual on Friday night.

The traditional wassail, held at Ostler’s Cider Mill, near Goodleigh, is designed to scare off bad spirits from the orchards and encourage harmony and good harvest.

The ancient ceremony, observed by South West cider-producing counties since Anglo-Saxon times, was led by local group the Borderline Morris.

Wassailing ‘king and queen’ Ray and Lynn Thorne hung cider-soaked pieces of toast in the branches to feed and encourage birds to stay in the orchard and eat harmful insects. More cider was poured around the base of the trees to nourish the roots.

The ground was then banged with the wassailing stick and shots fired to frighten away any evil spirits before more songs were sung, cider sampled and a delicious feast eaten.

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