FLOW Wassail music rehearsal, Tuesday 18th January 7.30pm on zoom

The 2022 FLOW Wassail will be live and in person in the mud with the fire and the trees from 4.30pm on 22nd January, starting at Exwick Parish Hall.
If you’d like to join in with the music, here are the dots and lyrics for The Exeter Wassail (click on the links for the pdfs). Here also is a recording of Exeter Family Orchestra playing and singing the song in the orchard at a rehearsal on Sunday. (It wasn’t raining as hard as is sounds – something has started crunching in the recording device.)
We will rehearse on Tuesday 18th January at 7.30pm on ZOOM. If you’d like to join us please get in touch via the contact form. If this is not possible for you, for either technical or timing reasons, please also let us know.


Wassail 2021

The FLOW Wassail of 2021 was already planned to be quite a DIY affair, but as the date approached the Wassail team felt that COVID lockdown conditions meant that organised public gathering shouldn’t be encouraged.

As we live very close to the Exwick end of the orchard, my family decided to visit the trees on Saturday 16th January as a special kind of daily exercise expedition. We toasted some bread and threaded it on string to hang in the tree for the robin, and set off in our wellies, hats and gloves. It felt very small, just the three of us processing in the daytime, when usually we make the Wassail journey at dusk, with fire and a noisy throng.








From a distance, the trees still looked very little, just bare sticks in the ground, but close-up we were surprised to find pink blossom already on some of the cherries. We hung our toast on the trees, but didn’t see the robin on this occasion (though we could hear him).

I danced the Exeter Wassail dance, and sang the song while my family listened and watched, humouring me: it’s easier to do this kind of thing in a large group, and very odd as a solo. The unexpected blossom quietened my dancing and singing: if part of Wassailing is to encourage the trees to wake up, I didn’t want them to be this quick off the mark. I asked the trees to sleep longer, rather than rush into spring while we’re still in the necessary dormant phase. We humans were learning this the hard way, through the isolation of the COVID winter that many struggled through. It felt good to be connecting with the trees as part of a longer-term commitment during this dark time.



Leaving Exwick Mill Field, we walked slowly the length of the orchard, following the map to learn which trees are which and pausing for a ceremonial photo on the FLOW bench.

On reaching Trews Weir we spied two other people tending the trees. Surely, other Wassailers? Yes, they were, and Orchard Guardians to boot, not only Wassailing and sharing some of their mulled cider with the trees, but doing some gentle tree-care adjusting and reapplying tree guards (the rabbits had been nibbling at the bark).

We had a quiet, socially-distanced little sing and dance. Then my family went home and I continued alone down the orchard to honour the last tree at Double Locks.

The following day, I met a friend for an even smaller socially-distanced Wassail in Exwick Mill Field. Hers is an spirit that refuses to be inhibited, so we danced and sang with more abandon than the previous day, spinning around the little trees and hanging up more toast. Silly, but good to connect with each other and kindle our still-new Wassail tradition. We provided quite a spectacle for a dog walker who eyed us with curiosity and perhaps some concern. We didn’t need to ask him to keep his distance.

I wonder whether anyone else Wassailed the FLOW trees this year? Let us know if you did!

Author Emma Welton
FLOW Wassail 2021 write up

FLOW wassail lyrics, music, dance & sound files


Arranged in 2018/19 by Emma Welton from music by Tim Hill. Original lyrics by James Crowden adapted by Emma Welton, James Banyard, Anne-Marie Culhane & Jo Salter. Exeter Wassail commissioned by Anne-Marie Culhane for Singing For Trees, 2015.

Get in touch if you have any questions or want to practice over the phone!

  1. Wassail wassail the apple tree X4
    Come young and old, and brave and bold To light the dark and chase the cold. The orchard knows a thing or two x2
  2. Wassail wassail the apple tree x4 The Exe flows by from Moor to sea From mill to weir with orchard lea. The orchard knows a thing or two x2
  3. Wassail wassail the apple tree X4 Our trees they come from far and near Feeding the bees for many a year. The orchard knows a thing or two x2
  4. Wassail wassail the apple tree x4 Seasons askew, the patterns change Drought and deluge, sunshine and rain. The orchard knows a thing or two x2
  5. Wassail wassail the apple tree X4 For cherry and quince we all will care
    Mulberry, medlar, almond and pear. The orchard knows a thing or two x2 (or more…)

Sound file 1: melody + quiet harmony; Sound file 2: tune + harmony; Sound file 3 harmony; Sound File 4: chants for dancing.

Exeter Wassail 2021 – Full Music Score

Exeter Wassail lyrics 2021

New dance from Ezuko Hall in Japan to Exeter Wassail
to be danced while singing the Wassail!
1. root care – pass hand in circles, caringly, low over the ground (on knees, or bending low)
2. rain – point outstretched and splayed fingers in a downwards motion towards the ground – angled like rain
3. grow – turn hands over and repeatedly lift them up, encouraging trees to grow
4. wake up – surprise the trees and each with sudden hand claps, looking into each other’s eyes
5. strengthen – do bum-bumps to help develop trunk strength and sturdiness.

Map of FLOW

We now have a full colour, detailed printed map locating all of the 193 trees and their varieties. These maps are free and usually available from: Boatyard Bakery and the Custom House information point both on Exeter quay as well as the Exwick’s Community Builder Rachel.  Please let us know if you can’t get hold of a copy. We hope to make the map available online in 2021.

Exeter map5pd

Wassail 2020!

Once again the people of Exwick and St Thomas’s turned up to celebrate their new Orchards, planted along the river just a couple of years ago. What a great excuse to carry on the Winter festival, all the way to the old twelfth night. We did this by Wassailing- an ancient Angolo-Saxon custom of visiting orchards and singing to the trees to promote a good harvest for the coming year. This custom has been nearly all forgotten but has seen a revival in the last few years here in the South West, which is the prime cider producing region in the country. We here in Exeter will want to do our bit to keep this ritual alive!

The weekend was kicked off at Exwick church hall by storytelling, practising the Wassailing song and making lanterns and head decorations for the parade. At dusk the whole theatrical procession headed slowly for the Orchard at the end of the flood channel, where the ‘Toastmaster’ waited with his big roaring fire and flagon full of mulled Cider. ‘Sentinel’ and ‘Wind’ lead the large crowd of tree spirits, musicians and revellers – all singing and chanting as the sun was going down. Once by the Orchard, the Wassailing cup was passed around to much merriment, well wishes and cheers. We sang, danced and banged our pots and pans to frighten away bad spirits. Hot mulled cider and roaring fire warmed us while we lingered in the darkening night. When it couldn’t get more magical- it did! The otherworldly characters, ‘Sentinel’ and ‘Wind’, started their walk and dance around the orchard. They were shining in the night in their eerie whiteness and their extraordinary costumes, carrying a fire and gliding amongst the trees.

The same was repeated the following night at the Orchard by Trews Weir. Only this time the crowd and merriment was even bigger and louder! The preparations were done at the Boatyard Bakery and the procession walked slowly past the harbour and over the bridge, singing and chanting, trumpets and pipes playing. The fire was roaring, the stars were out and we all had another magical night.

Our 200 new trees are now well and truly Wassailed! Let’s hope they will carry on thriving and bearing fruit in the years to come. And let’s all gather together again next January, to wrap up the Winter festivities and welcome the turning of the year in this magical way.

– written by Jaana Pinchard, Exwick resident

The wassail only happens with your involvement and support. To get involved next wassail next year as performer, steward, helper or co-organiser contact floworchardexe at gmail.com

All photos by Jenny Steer




Photographer Jenny Steer

FLOW Wassails January 19 & 20 2019

We had a great couple of days! We started with activities for families including weaving threads for the Toastmaster costume, lanterns, adding stories to our storymap and a singing and musical warm up with Emma,. On Sunday the Wildlife Trust joined us making apple bird feeders and fat balls for birds which people took home. Tea and cakes were provided by local residents in Exwick and in Boatyard Bakery Emma provided a delicious tea of baked spuds and chilli. Heather then shared her stories of FLOW, shaped by your stories and observations of the river and FLOW and then we formed a dusk procession to each orchard.

Once greeted by the Toastmaster at the fire, this year played wonderfully by Crispin expert cider maker from Exeter Apples, we sang the Exeter Wassail, arranged for voice and Slack Ma Girdle, our wassail band, by Emma Welton leading into a crescendo of harmonies and pot bashing.  This year we had two more characters in our wassail story: the wind – who played in the trees (literally) with his tin whistle and alerted us to geese flying overhead across the moon with his weather vain (see if you can spot them in the picture) and Sentinel, protector of the orchard, who blessed the trees in the orchard and came back bearing liquid sunshine (cider) which was then passed round for all in the wassail bowl. Music and merriment continued with warm mulled cider and apple juice as darkness fell and we then went on the Thatched House Pub and the Topsham Brewery for further music and song.  As ever, thanks to the many people who helped make this happen including Emma from Boatyard Bakery, Helen in Exwick who stitched the Sentinel’s dress and Theatre Alibi. Please do join us next year. We are evolving a new tradition and you are very welcome to come and be part of the story.

Exwick photographed by brilliant FLOW photographer Jenny Steer

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail


Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail

Photographer for Wassail











Community Gatherings for FLOW

A community gathering took place on 26 June at Boatyard Bakery (thanks Emma!) to talk about FLOW going forward and how to care for it as a community. You can find notes from discussions here. We explored forming into three groups: treecare; FLOWculture and FLOW community & communication to talk about different aspects of the project. The next gathering is Thursday 4th October at 7pm at Redhills Primary School, Landhayes Road, Exeter, EX4 2BY. All are welcome including newcomers!  One of things we will discuss at this gathering will be the second Exwick Wassail in January 2019.

FLOW community bench making project at Flowerpot Meadows Autumn 2018

This autumn we worked with Carving Communities (CC) and young people (aged 11 years and above) in Exwick to make a sculptural bench out of wood using hand tools. The project ran from September 16 and took place entirely on site, next to CC’s mobile tool box on Exwick Playing Fields at the end of Ennerdale Way.

We were delighted to be working with James because his sculpted benches are visual striking, expertly crafted and co-designed and made by and with people in the places that he works. James develops a sense of ownership of the bench through the process of working and making together and then gifting this to back the wider community. Come and enjoy the new bench and see if you can spot which animals, insects and birds are also visiting the FLOW route. Pictures of the bench launch event to follow.

James is speaking about his work at St Sidwell’s Centre on 13 November at 18.30 – follow the link to register your attendance.


See below for project images week by week:

23 September: Torrential start to the day but this didn’t put off 1 young man who was waiting for us on arrival! 2 young men worked with us throughout the day and as you can see from the pictures, they took the bark and sap wood off what will be the bench uprights. We and they had many conversations & visits over the course of the day with those passing by who were universally positive about the project. Good start.

30 September: We had a good atmosphere on site. Both young people returned with friends and  we had supportive adults working alongside. One young person stayed with the difficulty of mastering the drawknife all day, until around 3pm he found himself slicing through the oak wood like butter creating beautiful smooth lines. A good metaphor for life!

There were lots of conversations with passing public who are very positive about the project. One elderly man on a mobility scooter stopped to chat and pretty soon he & James realised they had met when the man (who was a carpenter in his working life) donated his tools to Men In Sheds. We invited him back for a cuppa next week & he is bringing his oil stone so that he can sit & sharpen the tools with us. He said it gives him ‘somewhere to go & something is to do’ Wonderfully naturally occurring intergenerational moment!

John, one of our 5 Director’s of Carving Community CIC came by to spot check Health & Safety (In his working life he is currently HSE Coordinator for the Rampion offshore wind farm off the UK South coast so great to have as part of the team.) He took one young person through the process & clearly he learnt something as he was directing us in safe practice by the end of the day! Brilliant!

One of our friends teaches A Level Art at Exeter College & is letting her students know about the opportunity to become involved. As you know we have contacted all the local schools & posted on Facebook but if you know of any other youth groups or useful contacts please let us know. A further 5 consent forms have gone out with young people. Hopefully we will see them returning this weekend, along with members from our Ludwell Valley project who have seen this project on Facebook & plan a visit.

A last thought. We have started discussing the design of the back board with the young people. So far they would like to include … apples, birds, the flow of the river and a chicken! We’ll be keeping all that in mind as we progress!

7 October: We spent the day shaping the seat & back board of the bench. Using draw knives, scorps & spike shaves we removed the last of the sap wood before following the flow of the chestnut wood sourced from a fallen tree near Bude.

Our team has swollen with 4 regular young people, 4 supportive adults plus lots of doggie friends, Exwick residents, cyclists & walkers who are enjoying seeing the bench progress.

Some great life stories were shared & housed in the bench as we worked & ‘gourmet’ soup (on what turned out to be a sunny day) & apple cake appeared from our mobile tool box to sustain the crew!

Looking forward to working on joints and back board designs next weekend.


21 October:

After a wash out with howling wind and rain the previous week, we had glorious blue skies on Sunday for Session 4 of the FLOW Bench making project.

With new young people & supportive adults joining, the team cracked on with making the mortice holes in the uprights, shaping the ‘Tree nails’ and working on the backboard river design.

Special mention goes to those with the spoke shaves, who spent hours lying down to smooth the underside of the seat. Make sure you run your hand along it when you take your first seat on the completed bench!

We were fortunate to have the company of a 99 year old lady for tea, who was a cabinet maker all her life and thrilled to see the tools in the hands of young people. Another man came by and left us this quote from his father.. ‘ hands are the best tools ever made’

Apple & Ginger cake to share arrived by bicycle, along with an enormous squash for next week’s soup, provided by a local allotment holder who cycles past each week.

We will be back again next Sunday 28th October for our penultimate session, when we will be choosing the footprints of other beings who inhabit the river bank to represent ourselves in the backboard design.

Our final session will now take place on Sunday November 4th with the reveal of the finished bench and celebration of the team’s contributions from 3 til 4pm. Come and join us!

28 October:


The wind blew, the sun shone and the hidden creatures of the Exe left their tracks on the backboard of the FLOW bench (with a little help from the young people and supportive adults in the team!)
We asked each person to choose the tracks of an animal, bird or insect to represent themselves which may be found along the river but rarely seen without deep looking.
Each person then added their tracks to the backboard, below the river and orchard images already in place, using a variety of punches and hammers.
The young people chose to place their marks close to where they live along the river. Another chose a heron whose tracks carefully ended together by the river as he imagined the heron pausing for a drink.
Jenny, a local photographer joined us to add gull tracks. She has a project on gulls (http://www.iloveseagulls.com/) and was just reading about the significance of gulls when 2 literally flew down and landed briefly on the end of the backboard where she planned to make her tracks! Wow!
The man who gave us a huge squash from his nearby allotment last week, came by with his brother. He chose to leave badger tracks as he has regularly seen them crossing the allotment.
His brother chose to add ‘rosy red’ apples to the trees, observing and including wind falls which are found at this time of year.
This led to the inclusion of several birds feasting on the windfalls and the delicate marks of a crane.
Look out for the grasshopper & newt tracks close to the riverbank, a duck who just popped in and out of the water and the tracks of a rarely seen ancient bear!
Several young people cracked on with chiselling out the mortice joints, shaping the tree nails and completing the smoothing of the seat in preparation for the installation of the bench this weekend. Fantastic perseverance!
If you are passing on Saturday morning, you will see folk digging a metre down to fix the uprights in place, before assembling, oiling, polishing and ‘closing the eyes of the completed bench’ on Sunday ready for the grand opening from 3pm until 4pm.
Come along to celebrate the brilliant community who turned up to make this lovely sculptural gathering place on the Exe. Join us for hot spicy Apple juice and cake before the season turns in. We look forward to seeing you there.

Final Making and Installing Weekend



Launch event – smiles, laughter, perpetual rain and warm apple juice. Thanks to all who came along despite ongoing rain. We were delighted to be joined by Councillors Phillip Bialyk and Rachel Sutton. Certificates were handed to all the people involved in making over the weeks and young people involved in the event unveiled the bench from beneath spruce, birch and flowers and gifted it to the rest of the community. Thank you James and Niki for being, making and sharing so generously through this project and working with people to make such a beautiful bench and to Jenny for yet again brilliant pics. A fantastic addition to the FLOW route and community.