Following months of planning we held the annual Colwall Wassail at Colwall Village Garden on Saturday 18th January. And what a night!
The evening was clear and chilly with the most beautiful sunset, and mercifully without rain.
A sellout crowd in great spirits and in good voice. Young and old, an enthusiastic throng filled the site.
We had a fantastic crew of volunteers to run the event, and a cast of Wassail characters in orchard themed costumes. Additional entertainment was provided with music by Old Meg and friends; along with Jimmy Juggle, fire eater and juggler, at the perimeter of a blazing bonfire.
A Pig Roast by Hilltop Farm along with samosas, soup and rolls and delicious cakes kept us well fed. Copious amounts of mulled apple juice and cider were drunk - real favourites on cold nights like this.
We took directions from the 'Porter', lit flaming brands and torches, and led by the 'Mistletoe Man' we processed snake-like through the dark and atmospheric orchard. Deeper into the dark we went - strong chants of "Waes hael" filling the starlit sky.
Arriving at the lantern-lit Wassail tree we were addressed by the mysterious 'Butler' as the Wassail ritual began. A message of the tradition of orchards and the importance of the environment preceded the blessing of the tree. 'Tom Tit' and 'Jenny Wren' joined in the ceremony circling the tree as it was blessed with cider and toast.
Returning to the Apple Packing Shed we were led in hearty singing of Wassail songs by our flash mob choir, and were amused by the Colwall Wassail 2020 poem by our very own local poet, Adrian Mealing, which concluded a successful, memorable and fun evening.
A wonderful mix of people all united in a single event.
We had visitors from far and wide - a couple from Leicestershire having found us via the COG website, arriving in Colwall by train, staying in the Colwall Park Hotel (with a chance upgrade to occupancy of the bridal suite), attending the Wassail and making a weekend of it.
Now there's a model that you may wish to emulate next year....
Gently through this orchard tread, tiptoe with your toasted bread
‘tis not a night for going to bed, gorra lorra wassailing to do, instead
And fondly in the darkness feel, the apple spirit, that’s enough
Like Colwall folks - gentil and some quite rough
Be whole - good health
Cox’s, pile them high in boxes, Pippins, jeans with rippins
Spartan, I’ll take a carton, eat enough Gala, they make you go Lady ga-ga
Early Windsor? Not in my wheelie-binsor,
Pearman, have no fear, man, of the year to come
Egremont, Lord Lambourne, Bismarck & Blenheim
These are hard to grow, a bit like a potato
Be whole - good health
The primary school now down Mill Lane
The kids are cheerful, that’s quite plain
But the Thai Rama crossing, no time for a cuddle
And boy when it rains, look out for that puddle
See the sheep, see the horses, see the cats a’mousing
Yes, we’d really really love, some affordable housing
The Crown Inn’s for pool, the Legion’s for snooker
The Chase is for chat, Colwall Park is for hugga
where WINGS meet and talk a hundred percenty
where there’s an 80’s disco with leg-warmers aplenty
A peal of bells on Brexit Day would be the height of shoddy
bells ring out on Brexit Day, over our dead body
Trump and China disarray; alignment, that’s gone wrong
but Leavers chill, go off for a smoke, get high on Big Ben’s Bong
Colwall looks grand from high on the ridge
now we’ve got used to one-lane of a bridge
Provisions & Peter’s, the butchers, the post
Café Morso, the chemists, for the pills we love most
and right on the hairpin, the words you can’t miss
you’re welcome to Colwall, come and get some of this
Quietly through this orchard tread
See the farmers, what was it said?
That farmers feel it in their bones
This ancient earth, no telephones
No Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram here
this place called home, long may it bear
such fruit as this
(X3) Be whole - good health
...and finally a few quotes from attendees...
"What a great occasion. Well done to all the team. So happy, so connected, the full age range. Beautiful."
Huge thanks to you and this year’s crew & heaving choir of wassailing workers and weavers of magic and lighters of lanterns and purveyors of music and switchers on of tripped power sources and mulled cider wizards.
It was another dream in Colwall’s night time life."
"A great thanks to you and the organisation team for doing such a great job making it fun, fresh, and safe."
"Big congrats on masterminding an excellent event. Great organisation made it slick and seamless.
Mother Nature granted us a perfect night with no wind or rain........ She's obviously a keen wassailer too."
"Thanks to everyone in the group for a fantastic wassail.
It was well worth the journey from Whitwick in Leicestershire."
"My first wassail ! And what an event ! Thank you for all the hard work that went into making it a very successful evening."
"It was a fabulous evening. Thank you for all your hard work. Could hardly speak this morning after all that shouting Wassail! "
" It was such a fun night. Thank you! "
"Really enjoyed the evening! Well done to you and all the organisers. Impressive!"
Please see below (a) both the words and music for the Colwall Wassail Song and (b) the song sheet covering the three Wassail songs that we sing at the Colwall Wassail
Looking something like the props team from a Game Of Thrones production our Friday morning volunteers have been busy making the flaming brands that form a part of the theatre and drama that is Colwall Wassail.
The flaming brands are made out of sycamore staves with the tops covered in hessian and will be used during the Wassail procession and ceremony through the community orchard area of the Colwall Village Garden site on Saturday 18th January at 5.30pm onwards.
With thanks to The Malvern Hills Trust who kindly granted us permission to harvest sycamore from the Malvern Hills.
Never believe what you are told about how easy it is to propagate willow!
We thought it was as easy as plunging pencil thickness stems into the soil and they would root and grow without fail.
Sadly we were wrong, and our horticultural pride was sorely dented when version #1 of our Willow Worm, planted a year ago at Colwall Village Garden, failed to grow.
Being hardy country- types we had immediately blamed the weather - a dry spell after planting was (without doubt) the culprit...obviously nothing to do with the previous workmanship!
Now, we are nothing if not a tenacious bunch (some might say stubborn), so a re-match was always going to be on the cards...
Undeterred, and buoyed by fresh pollarded willow supplies once again purloined from Rita's garden, and with renewed leadership from Martin, version #2 of the Willow Worm grew phoenix-like from the site of our previous disaster during a regular Friday morning volunteer session.
In terms of form and colour it's undoubtedly a gem.
Version #2 of the Willow Worm boasts not only the tunnel structure replicated from before, but also now has the 'destination' of an igloo structure at the far end.
As a play location for local children it's the must go place to be!
However, with regard to the key question - Whether it will grow? - only time will tell!
Thanks to Rita for materials, to Martin for instruction and imparted wisdom, to our volunteers for their patience and humour, to Les for photography, and to Dottie the dog for ongoing Trufflehound services.
The third Sunday of the month sees our hardy volunteers working at Colwall Village Garden in a three hour regular morning session.
Here Paul braves the cold and showery weather to cut up logs which we have used to make log piles for wildlife.
Elsewhere on the site Sue helps keep that pesky grass cut short.
This is part of our maintenance regime in order to ensure that our newly seeded wildflower meadow areas within the main community orchard have a chance to germinate and thrive.
No, not the famous singer, but John, another stalwart volunteer, managing to look remarkably fit and happy after sterling work transporting logs round the site.
We hope that the log piles will provide a good winter habitat for mammals, amphibians and insects.
In preparation for this Saturday's Colwall Mistletoe Fair we've been busy and creative.
Forget Santa's little helpers - our own wreathmaking wizzards have been hard at work.
Well Done for the collective efforts of Wendy, Mhari, Jacques, Maria, Martin, Rita, Philippa, and Julie.
We've made about twenty wreaths which will be ready for sale on Saturday 7th December outside Provisions of Colwall, Walwyn Road, Colwall - 9am to 1pm.
These will sit alongside our other local merchandise to include jams, jellies, chutneys, fruit juice and honey.
Not to mention lots of lovely bunches of mistletoe to add that festive fun!
Whether your house is modern or traditional we've tried to cater for all styles so visit us, browse, buy and get those perfect Christmas decorations.
We hope to see you there!
OK, so we'd confess that sadly this isn't an image of our orchards, just yet...but we are working on it.
A drab November day sees us reflecting upon the past few months and thinking positively towards the future with regard to our orchard meadows creation project...
Colwall Orchard Group is piloting the creation of orchard meadows at the two community orchard sites that we own in Colwall.
At each site we are attempting to create orchard meadows in an area of one acre with the intention that the meadows are established inbetween juvenile orchards which will eventually be filled with large, standard fruit trees on vigorous rootstocks.
We are starting from a very low baseline - the existing swards are exceptionally low in diversity and our bumble bee surveys yielded no sightings.
We are also very new to this... but learning fast! So what are the salient lessons so far?
Lesson 1 - Get the right people involved. We are indebted to Herefordshire Meadows, to Plantlife, and to the countless other people involved in this project who have generously shared their time, enthusiasm and knowledge. We've learnt an enormous amount about soil, about plants and wildlife. From an internal organisational perspective we are indebted to Lindsay Williams from Colwall Orchard Group who has run the project and committed a substantial amount of personal time and resource into making this happen for us. That leads us to lesson 2...
Lesson 2 - This all takes time! Perhaps more than we'd originally envisaged... Collecting the seed from our donor meadow; doing soil, plant and bumble bee surveys; preparing the receptor meadow sites; broadcasting the seed; post seed sowing sward maintenance. There's alot to do. But hopefully worth it!
Lesson 3 - The practicalities. Good machinery certainly helps. We were fortunate enough to be given permission to collect seed from a local flower rich meadow. Also Herefordshire Wildlife Trust kindly donated the use of their mechanical seed collector. A fabulous piece of kit and economical when compared with the alternative of buying-in a meadow seed mix from a supplier. Our attempts at spring tine harrowing were a dismal failure. The dry ground and our existing thickly matted grass sward was totally impervious to this method. The hire of a petrol powered lawn scarifier imaginatively dealt with the issue but it was exceptionally hard physical work, and we were fortunate that the ground at both sites is relatively flat to enable this approach to be used.
Lesson 4 - It's been fun. We are a community group, totally run by volunteers. The project has brought people together, they've been enthused, engaged and it's added an extra dimension to our usual orchard work. Our volunteers now have an understanding of meadows as a feature and a habitat, where most did not before, so as an educational process it's also been excellent and people have been inspired to think about meadow creation on their own land and gardens.
Lesson 5 - Will it work? Who knows? Only time will tell...From listening to others with more meadows experience there's a real issue about managing peoples' expectations. We have been careful to tell people that in year one the results may be limited but that we hope that over time, with the correct management, our meadows will slowly evolve and improve and that they will bring a new dimension to our orchards both for people and for nature. Watch this space!
Saturday November 23rd saw us join other local creative people at the Ale House Christmas Craft Fayre.
This was a well-attended, local event which gave us the opportunity to sell our wares to both new and existing customers.
If you missed us, and still need to purchase those essential Christmas presents, with local provenance, then catch us again at the Colwall Mistletoe Fair on Saturday 7th December where we will also be selling something evergreen with white berries on!
Hope to see you there...
A wet and miserable autumn evening saw Colwall Orchard Group's top team of chutney chefs happily hard at work in the Apple Packing Shed.
Looks fab to me, team!
The perfect accompaniment to a warming winter curry...
...we've also been making batches of our favourite jam varieties.
Look out for us, and our produce, at the Ale House Christmas Craft Fayre on Saturday 23rd November at Colwall Ale House near St. James the Great Church, Colwall.
A somewhat wet Friday morning found us at the wonderful Farr's Field orchard harvesting surplus apples.
With sincere thanks to the owners Carol and Jonty Pearce for their generosity and hospitality.
For more information about Farr's Field Orchard please see www.farrsfieldorchard.co.uk
Sometimes Colwall Orchard Group gives you the opportunity to relive fond childhood memories.
Here Andrew Spray gets (very carefully!) re-acquainted with tractor driving - helping move the bale arm crates containing our precious harvest.
And what a crop!
A mixture of Herefordshire Russet, Spartan and Fiesta apples to be used for juicing.
This has turned out to be a bumper harvest year for us, due to the hard work of our volunteers and the kindness of various fruit tree owners who allowed us to pick their fruit.
Q.Whats better than harvesting apples?
A. Harvesting apples with some youngsters to help!
Here, children from The Downs School, Colwall show off the fruits of the labours following a Sunday morning session picking apples from the small orchard in the school grounds. Later the children visited Colwall Village Garden to learn more about apples and to do some fruit juicing.
These children from the Downs School obviously have far better memories than ours...
Another day. Another visit.
Children from Colwall Primary School enjoy their packed lunch at Colwall Village Garden during a break in their visit to do apple picking and juicing.
It's lovely to pass this practical knowledge onto a new generation.
With thanks to the children, their teachers and adult helpers, and to our volunteers for making this all happen.
Nobody can accuse us of being boring.
In a complete change of mood we were wowed by the a cappella wonders of Serenata.
This fantastic singing group generously did a fund-raising evening gig, on our behalf, held in the stunning surroundings of the Ale House, Colwall.
Celebrating the harvest season, Serenata whisked us around the world on a spirited musical tour of the bountiful fruits of autumn.
The evening began with gifts of fruit from the singers to the audience and continued with songs, poetry, readings and humour.
A truly atmospheric and memorable experience.
Our lovely bar staff take a quick break from proceedings.
A massive THANK YOU to Serenata, and to our volunteers who helped with preparing and serving the food and drink, and with all of the other myriad things required to get the show on the road.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening that we would hope to repeat again.
We love Apple Day!
A firm favourite amongst our Members and visitors alike, we were, for a change, blessed with good weather for the annual Apple Day event this year.
The sun shone, visitors came in good numbers, our new cob pizza oven got fired up and the apple juice flowed.
A strange year for apples in these parts.
Some trees were laden with fruit, but frequently this year there were stories of a poorer crop than last year.
Welcome to the precarious and engaging world of fruit growing.
Nevertheless we had gathered in crates and trugs of fruit from local orchards and many of our visitors arrived with their own surplus fruit to be juiced and pasteurised.
Colwall Village Garden is a special place and the visiting kids enjoyed the freedom to romp around in a safe and relaxed place, and to play in an orchard environment.
There's free access to the site throughout the year and increasingly this is becoming a fun destination for kids to picnic and play.
We like good equipment.
This electric scratter, manufactured by Speidel, is the first part of the process to extract juice from fruit.
The scratter breaks up the whole fruit into a coarse pulp which is then pressed to extract the juice.
Replacing an old hand- cranked scratter we find that we are able to extract far more juice using this new piece of kit compared with the old one.
We setup some apple-related games - in this instance Pin The Wriggly Worm to the Apple - for all to enjoy.
Our Apple Catapult, erected within the community orchard, once again proved to be on target for both young and old alike.
Our recently completed cob pizza oven had its' first proper use on Apple Day and we served a steady stream of delicious home-made pizzas.
A big thank you to our volunteers Deb and Laurence (pictured above) whose sterling work on the landscaping and supporting structure, made the cob oven available for use on time.
Thanks too to all of the other volunteers who made Apple Day happen this year - we couldn't do it without you!
See more on the construction of the cob pizza oven, below.
A beautiful day in September found us working at the idyllic location of the Beauchamp Community at Newland, near Malvern.
In the picture above we are pruning a large old apple tree in their veteran orchard.
Our fruit tree expert, Tim Dixon, spent a couple of hours passing pruning tips onto members of the Beuachamp Community's gardening club - here working on some young plum trees.
There's nothing like working with good kit and on a large veteran apple tree like this we're very glad of our fantastic Niwaki orchard tripod ladders and our long handled pruning saws to get the job done efficiently and safely.
Not a new dance craze hitting Colwall but instead the start of the ancient art of cob making.
Clean clay is wetted, broken down by trampling, and mixed with sand and straw to make the wondrously simple building material called cob.
This was the start of a two day practical course in which we learnt the art of constructing a cob pizza oven which will be an additional attraction at our Colwall Village Garden site.
Recycled wine bottles are added to the base of the cob oven structure.
These help to retain heat when the oven is fired up.
Our thanks to our numerous volunteers who were readily able to provide these essential building materials...!
Our tutor - Matthew Lloyd of The Fabulous Cob Oven Company - getting to grips with some of the more skilled parts of the construction process.
It was lovely to be in the company of a talented craftsman.
More information from him at www.coboven.co.uk
Finally, a massive THANK YOU to the generosity and vision of Alan and Virginia Seddon who made this project possible.
Our pilot meadows orchard project got started on the ground this week.
We have begun to harvest wildflower seed, to include large quantities of Yellow Rattle, from our local donor meadow site, and we'll be drying the seed next, with a view to spreading it in test areas of our newly created orchards at Colwall Village Garden and at Lugg's Mill in August.
With thanks to the owner of the donor meadow and to our partners at Herefordshire Meadows and also Herefordshire Wildlife Trust.
The seed collector is very efficient at collecting seed ...and other (unwanted) material!
Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.
An old, cane sun lounger makes a fabulous improvised sieve to sort the wildflower seed from the chaff.
A fantastic result.
Significant quantities of wildflower seed collected to include Yellow Rattle - a parasitic plant that helps to check the growth of grass that would otherwise out-compete other wildflower meadow plants.