Wassail! Dance marks start of orchard restoration project

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The Ellington Morris Group performed at the Winnersh Wassail. Picture: Patricia D Rowell
The Ellington Morris Group performed at the Winnersh Wassail. Picture: Patricia D Rowell

RAIN, SLEET and hail couldn’t keep the morris dancers away, when residents gathered to mark the start of a restoration project at Winnersh Meadows. 

Volunteers and families joined together on Saturday, February 29, for a Wassail — an old English traditional ceremony to ensure a good harvest.

The event marked the start of a community-led project to restore the community orchard planted in Winnersh Meadows in 2011, and was hosted by three members of Transition Wokingham — an initiative to encourage people to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Amrita Reddy spoke at the event about the project nine years ago, where Winnersh Residents for Action on Planning (WRAP) and Winnersh Neighbourhood Action Group worked to plant a community orchard, with apples, pears, plums, cherry, quince, medlars and walnut trees.

The Ellington Morris Group performed at the Winnersh Wassail. Picture: Patricia D Rowell

She said: “Sadly, the orchard did not get a chance to thrive. Despite the sterling efforts of NAG and WRAP members, there weren’t enough people and expertise to nurture the orchard. 

“So it got neglected and over the years damage by nature, animals and humans have brought us to this sad sight.”

Ms Reddy said that she hopes the restoration project will improve the public amenity for residents to enjoy. 

“With climate change on the world agenda, this would be our small positive contribution to help counter all the negative impacts we have,” she added. “We think globally and act locally”.

The Rev James Warren, from St Mary’s Church in Winnersh, started the proceedings with a blessing traditionally read at wassails across the country. 

The Ellington Morris Group performed to the sound of a violin, and volunteers toasted to a successful project with apple juice made from the community apple press — available via Transition Wokingham.

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