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.
Download: FLOW Summer Picnic Flyer
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
EXETER WASSAIL, 2021
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!
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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.
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
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
ST THOMAS/TREWS RELIEF:
THIS YEAR’S POSTER:
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.