DOZENS of villagers from a North-East village came together to mark an old English tradition meant to ensure a bountiful harvest.

Local residents took part in the traditional wassail – from the Old English ‘vas heile’, or ‘good health’ – for Hurworth Community Orchard, near Darlington, by shouting, singing, playing instruments, and banging pots and pans.

The custom, which was common in Northern England in ancient times, is meant to ‘wake up the trees’ after winter, and help guarantee a fruitful crop. It was resurrected in 2022 by volunteers from Hurworth Village Bees, who cultivate and care for the community orchard.

The Northern Echo: The procession was led by performers from Black Diamond Mixed Cotswald MorrisThe procession was led by performers from Black Diamond Mixed Cotswald Morris (Image: Chris Barron)

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Organiser Pat Simpson said: “It was a really cheery atmosphere, and we had a very happy event. Everyone helped make plenty of noise to wake the trees up, so hopefully we’ll see the benefits come harvest-time.

“I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to Black Diamond Mixed Cotswold Morris and Rhapsody choir, who led the traditional songs and dances, to the Coffee Pot at Hurworth Grange, and to our volunteers from Hurworth Village Bees."

The Northern Echo:

The congregated wassailers shared spiced apple juice – or Wassail Cup – and apple cake and gingerbread before hanging toast in the branches to attract robins.