Saturday, January 22, 2011

Raising a glass to all future harvests

By Anita Harries (View from Dorchester)

Transition Town Dorchester held a delightfully traditional wassailing ceremony at their new Railway Orchard off the county town’s Monmouth Road at the weekend.

The aim of this ancient custom is to awaken the cider apple trees from their winter slumber and scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit.

A large group of people gathered around the largest tree and poured cider onto its roots. Pieces of toast soaked in cider were hung from its branches to attract robins, the guardian spirits of the trees.

The wassailing carol was sung, a traditional wassailing rhyme recited by those present, and a great deal of noise made to chase away any evil spirits whomay be lurking in the area.

A genuine three-handled wassail cup was filled with cider and handed round, and homemade Dorset apple cake and apple and cinnamon slices were enjoyed by all those who had braved the appalling weather to take part in this traditional ceremony.

Children threw cake at the tree, and a toast was drunk to the mighty apple tree and the success of the orchard.

Transition Town Dorchester’s community orchard group took over the Railway Orchard site last year from Network Rail, and work days have been held to clear the overgrown area ready for planting. They aim to demonstrate to the people of Dorchester how plots of land, however small, can help meet the town’s need for food while at the same time bringing the community together.

Transition Town Dorchester are striving to engage a significant proportion of the people in their community to work together to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and address one main question: “for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)”.

Anyone who would like to get involved in the community orchard, or indeed any of the other Transition Town projects, can call Jenny Shackleford on 07760 313305 or send an email to

PICTURE: Joining together for the singing of the wassail carol

Published by | Community Orchard, What the Papers Say

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