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.



Planting & welcoming the Trees, January 2018

A great couple of days – words by Jenny Steer & Anne-Marie Culhane

Over 130 people turned up to plant trees and over 250 people over two days to wassail!!

The trees are a mix of fruit, nut and foraging trees for insects, animals and humans to encourage movement and FLOW through the Riverside Valley Park.  There are just under 200 trees to be planted in 2018 which include local and heritage varieties + more unusual such as apricot, almond, loquat to adapt for a changing climate. The idea is that anyone can pick them and that you take a fair share and leave some for other people and wildlife. The route also compliments new wildflower planting that is happening in the river valley park to encourage a B-line for pollinators as part of Exeter Wild City Project and the flood defence scheme landscaping.

Anne-Marie collaborated with Emma Welton, a composer from Exwick to create the Exeter Wassail for 2018 with new lyrics for the project. Exwick Community Singers opened up two well attended rehearsals to members of the public to come and learn the song. The wassail was sung at dusk to welcome the new trees.

Artist, Amy Sheldon facilitated lantern making and showed people the Orchard Box. Devon Wildlife Trust showed people how to make bird feeders with apples studded with seeds and fat balls. Paul Conneally had made a giant wordsearch using all the tree variety names on the route and Anne-Marie asked people the question : How do we welcome the trees into the community of this place? With cards for people to add their experiences, stories and memories to the map of the route. Emma Welton worked with small groups of participants to teach them the Exeter Wassail. In Exwick soup and cake was provided by the local community and in Trews Weir by Emma at Boatyard Bakery and a troop of volunteers.  We had an amazing storyteller,

Heather Jane who told a beautiful story related to local trees and wassailing. Heather had heard the Robin call to her when she created the story. Follow this link to hear the story.

Traditionally, the Robin is the guardian of the orchard and that is why toast is usually hung in the tree as an offering to the Robin. For this wassail however, we plaited and pinned the toast on a coat and hat and we created The Toastmaster standing by a roaring fire who welcomed us to the orchards, each tree lit by a lantern. Crispin’s mulled cider and apple juice went down a treat as people passed round the Wassail bowl (made from Exeter cherry) and made toasts to bless the place and the trees.

It was amazing when I arrived to photograph at Trews Weir and the first thing I heard was the entrancing song of the little Robin as he perched so close to us and surveyed our tree planting, darting all around us!

What next? Some funding has been secured by East Devon District Council to support interpretation of the route, some materials for the project and some events. Join us for a walk and a picnic on the route on Sunday 29 April and a conversation about FLOW and the community going forward.

Thank you to everyone involved. So many people! In particular St Andrews Church and Andy’s Cafe and Exwick Community Singers for hosting FLOW in Exwick and Boatyard Bakery for hosting us at the Quay. Also many thanks to Mary-Rose Lane without which none of this would have happened.

Some things people said about FLOW:

Thank you for inviting Devon Wildlife Trust to be a part of the FLOW orchard planting event. It is not often that an event brings together a community in such a holistic, inspiring, and empowering way. The combination of tree planting, craft, storytelling and song clearly resonated with participants and the depth of engagement was striking. The tree planting gave local people a sense of ownership and a desire for ‘their’ trees to thrive. I think this will be an event which will make a lasting impact on the people who took part as well as the land that now holds the ribbon orchard – Jasmine Atkinson, Devon Wildlife Trust

 I think it was a fab weekend and really successful on lots of levels. The variety of activities that you brought together was amazing, but it was coherent and well organised as well! – Stuart Lockton, participant in the weekend

Wow what an amazing and uplifting weekend. It is one of the most inspiring ways of working and projects I’ve been involved with and it has culminated in a way of working I thought I could only dream of – Mary-Rose Lane, Environment Agency



Dates for planting events in January

The two community planting events will take place on:

20 January in Exwick at Exwick Mill Field & Andy’s Cafe

21 January in Trews Weir Relief (next to the allotments) and Boatyard Bakery at Exeter Quay

Planting and refreshments to keep up all warm and nourished will be followed by a celebration at dusk to mark the planting of the trees.  There may also be other opportunities to plant other parts of the route in February and March. Please get in touch if you want to get involved in food, drink, music or creative elements for the planting celebration.  More details to follow soon.

Orchard Lab 21 June

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

Orchard Ideas Lab on 21 June, a day with people from local communities of Exwick & St Thomas & the Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency & Exeter City Council considering the possibilities of the project and feeding in local knowledge and ideas.

A scorching hot day for our Orchard Ideas Lab which involved walking the route with sun hats, multiple water bottles and sun-umbrellas. People shared all sorts of ideas, wisdom and observations. Our trip included the siting of a red kite, the viewing of a sea lamprey spawning site and a deer tick tucking into Nigel’s red blood cells while we all enjoyed a pint at the Double Locks. We started at Exwick Community Hall and stopped half way through the day at the Quay House to share a lunch provided by Boatyard Bakery and have some reflection time.  Ideas shared have been drawn into the planting plan which I have created for the Environment Agency Landscape Architect who is reconfiguring the designs to include multiple varieties of edible trees and hedgerow fruits and nuts.

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

The plan includes local heritage varieties as well as more unusual varieties from further afield and overseas. This includes Loquats, which I recently found growing and fruiting successfully at Exeter University’s Streatham Campus.  The route is looking into a changing climate and considering what might be growing here in 50+ years time given climate change predictions. The route is designed with insects, birds and humans in mind and with certain trees acting as markers through the route as well as different planting emphasis in different areas. If you would like to see the plans for the route please get in touch.

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

The Orchard Ideas Lab also gave people the opportunity to have some time to consider what might be planted on the route, to create their own visions for the route and to gather inspiration. This came from the past (for example Samuel Hartlib’s Designe For Plentie (1600s) on the Plantation & Culture of Orchards a treatise ‘to turne the most hopelesse Willdernes, on a suddaine, into a rich & beautifull paradyse‘ or Henry Thoreau on cherries from The Succession of Forest Trees; conversations with each other and the work of artists.  As part of the day we were able to display Amy Shelton’s new artwork  for this project, a collaboration for the Orchard Box consisting of mounted slides of pressed blossom samples, collected in Exeter and surroundings from many of the plants that are being chosen to form part of the route.

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

We ended the day at the Double Locks pub where we had a short discussion around how the project might develop and what we might each want to share and gain from it. This is Emily (Wildlife Trust) examining the tick that is attached to Nigel’s leg through bionoculars!

A couple of comment from participants reflecting on the day:

wanted to thank you for such a great event yesterday. Some brilliant people from the community on board, and it really is exciting to think about how this project will evolve

thanks for a really interesting day at the ideas Lab. It is a really exciting project and it will be a wonderful legacy