Tag Archives: Nottinghamshire


My friend, Missy Dragon, informed me that the Allotment group of St Ann’s were going to miss out their wassailing because the usual fellow wasn’t there. 

So, in the way of daring me to do it, she asked if I’d be up for it.  What’s this? A British tradition being left out? Not on my watch meladdio!

So I managed to, very last minute, book the day off and get in contact with the organiser for the Children’s Activity Day.  She sent me an email with the wassailing song they normally do:

The Wassail Song

Old Apple tree we wassail the
And hope that thou wilt bear
For the Gods do know where we shall be
Come apples another year
To bloom well and to bear well
So merry let us be
Let everyone take off their hat and shout to the Old Apple Tree.

Old Apple tree we wassail thee
And hope that thou wilt bear
Hatfuls, capfuls and three bushel bagfuls
And a little heap under the stair.


Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!

Erm, did you just say song? I don’t sing, shiiiiiiittttt! So I did my research and found the melody on YouTube:

Wassail – three cheers for the apple tree: http://youtu.be/eFF6ozduQ1A

For those not familiar, Wassailing  comes from the Anglo Saxon ‘Waes-Hael’ or ‘Good Health’.  The practices of it vary from place to place, county to county as does any of its songs.  It is normally practiced in January, in some places, 12th Night.

The one I got involved in had us sing the song, pour Apple juice on the roots, put toast onto the branches via my lovely ‘Toast Maidens’ and make lots of noise with pots and pans.  Yes, very good fun, but what’s it all for? Quite simply: to make the fruit trees give a good yield.
The pouring of juice (traditionally ale or cider with eggs in it, but it was a children’s event, so I used Apple juice instead) gives back nutrients into the ground.  The toast is to encourage birds to come to the tree, so that they’ll stay around and in spring spread the pollen with their wings and droppings, encouraging pollenation and growth. The noise allows the sound vibrations to go into the wood and somehow encourages the branches to become more productive.  At least, that’s as I understand it. I could have got this totally wrong however.

Other versions involve pissing and whacking the tree with sticks, some are done with a fire, the varients go on.

It was a sunny if cold day, but the small crowd of children and parents that followed seemed to enjoy it as we went to the Apple trees and caused lots of noise and joyful hullabaloo.  I only had time to learn the song on the way there, so I was very grateful for my friend, B. Turning up and lending her singing voice.  We all ended up singing the song to the tune of ‘ Oh Christmas Tree…‘ Because we made a joke about it, so we made it so.  We changed the lyrics to incorporate pear and cherry trees until we ran out of toast.  Then I told the local story, recorded by local storyteller Pete Castle, called the Watercress Girl.  This involved a young girl being hired by a witch to clean her house, but the girl ends up stealing from the witch (why? Why would she do that? Was she stupid?) And gets the fruit tree orchard in the Witch’s garden to lie to the witch so she could get away.  I thought it highly appropriate.

For my very first public Wassailing, I’d say it went well, I even got praised for it, but the real praise goes to Missy Dragon for telling me about this event in the first place.  Also to B. And her partner, for my Morris friends for coming along, the folks at STAA and the people who wanted to join in and of course to Pete Castle for the tale he put in his book.

If you fancy making traditional Wassailing drinkies, here’s the link:


And Pete Castle’s brilliant book is:

Nottinghamshire Folk Tales, The History Press, Gloucestershire, 2012 p.62.


A Walk in Sherwood Forest

We’d arrived in the morning, it was grey and a little misty and autumn had claimed most of the leaves on the floor.
Me and my brother changed our trainers for brown leather hiking boots which meant wearing thick woolen socks to make sure we didn’t get blisters (didn’t always work).
Mum opened the lunch box and gave me and my brother a ham sandwich each.  Dad cracked open the brown thermos and poured us a cup of vegetable soup.  Once ready, we got our bikes unloaded and me and my brother tore off, mud flying by the sides of us, the winter breeze hitting us in the face and the smell of mulch in the air…

Is one of my coherent memories from my childhood of going to Sherwood Forest.  I hadn’t been for decades and in all the six years of living in Nottingham, I haven’t been there once.  Until today.


Photo by locksley2010
Me, Mum and Dad went there for a walk, because that’s what we used to do.  And we like going for walks in the country or any woodland to be fair.
This time around, it was the end of winter and we had no soup, sandwiches or bmx’s.  There were blue skies, sunshine and lots of birds.
There’s a lot of birds, well it is ‘t’woods in’t it?” Said Dad in his Yorkshire accent which, I’m afraid to say I’ve lost touch with and had to get both parents to repeat what they had said numerous times.  Been away from Sheffield too long, I have.  Dad was right though, there were a lot out on the bird tables now in place: Coalmine tits, Great tits, Blue tits (Meantam Gorm in Cymraeg), Robins, and some speckled species I’m not familiar with.  Even the pigeons looked… well, healthy.  “What’s tha’ there, a pigeon?”
“Yes, Dad. A clean one.”


Photo of sculptured wood by locksley2010.
The bird tables were made from the wood of the forest, in fact it looked like Sherwood Forest had gone eco: flattened paths, grazing areas, natural habitats, dead trees left bare because they support life systems of their own (insect nests, animals, bacteria, that kind of thing).  Many of the smaller tree stumps were carved into all kinds of shapes and designs.  Many dormant trees showed their wonky beautiful shapes:


Wonky Trees by locksley2010


Herne’s Head by locksley2010

In fact, where the Herne’s Head Tree was, I remember a huge fallen tree showing all of its roots being around there, me and my brother used to have to get off our bikes to go around it.

We didn’t go to the Major Oak, personally I think it should be left to fall and die like it wants to instead of being kept up just for tourists.

Sherwood Forest was very different from the 20+ years ago since I last went, but I am glad it is being looked after and that it encourages eco living and working with your environment. There are even notice boards educating about local wildlife and plants, apparently Sherwood Forest is even home to a spider that has only its Latin name. Me and Mum thought it should be called the ‘Fly Agaric Spider’ due to its abdomen… and a play on words.

And I didn’t mention Robin Hood once… bollocks!


Photo by locksley2010