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Wassailing in Swaffham grows stronger despite false alarm fire scare




The full moon proved to be a perfect backdrop as over 70 people gathered in a Swaffham orchard for an annual west country age-old tradition last week.

Organiser Katy Fullilove, manager of the Family Action charity's ESCAPE project, said this year's wassailing event was the best attended since it started six-years-ago.

Taking place at Swaffham's Community Allotment and Orchard on Friday, the free event included a noisy procession with flaming torches, a verse and lighting of a Willow Woman, symbolising fertility for the new harvest year.

Wassail Ceremony at Swaffham Community Orchard. Pictured at the front are Katy Fulliove, left, and Trish Thornton. Pictures: Michael Fysh
Wassail Ceremony at Swaffham Community Orchard. Pictured at the front are Katy Fulliove, left, and Trish Thornton. Pictures: Michael Fysh

Mrs Fullilove said this shows it is a case of "out with the old and in with the new" with a new Willow Woman being weaved each year.

The purpose of wassailing is to ensure a bountiful harvest of fruit in the coming year, traditionally taking place around the time of Old Twelfth Night.

Mrs Fullilove said she was not aware of any other wassailing events in Norfolk in what she described as a way of "reconnecting" the community together.

Bean Cousins
Bean Cousins

"It was a clear night and there was an eclipse shadow. The full moon was magical and lots of the same people who came last year were there again," she said.

"The word is getting out. It's becoming an annual fixture. We started about six-years-ago and this is the fifth year we have run it. A lot of people got in touch to say we missed one out so we have made sure we keep it going."

Although there were no noise complaints, one resident called the fire service after seeing the bonfire in what was a false alarm.

Chris Wood and Trish Thornton help prepare the food for the event
Chris Wood and Trish Thornton help prepare the food for the event

"They (fire crew) got there when the really fierce part of the bonfire had died down so it was a bit of a non-event. I did have to apologise," Mrs Fullilove added.

Many ESCAPE Project participants, who may suffer with mental health issues, were involved with the preparations since early December.

The volunteers learn garden and horticultural skills through the project, and helped to create a Family Action garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show last year, which received a Gold Medal and was named Best Artisan Garden at the prestigious show.

Wassailing at Swaffham
Wassailing at Swaffham

For more information on the Family Action charity visit https://www.family-action.org.uk/.


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