3 January 2019

Wassail !

What a fantastic Wassail on Saturday 5 January; we were amazed as over 500 revellers joined in.  It can be said that now all the evil spirits in the orchards have been driven away with shotgun fire, the trees have been woken up from their winter slumbers by drumming, singing and dancing and the good spirits of the trees have been fed with cider and toast we can be sure that the harvest will be wonderful this year! 

We crowned a king and a queen at one of the orchards by giving special cake to the girls and boys and whoever found the hidden bean was royalty for the day. Their royal duties included placing mistletoe in the branches to attract the birds.

The procession set off from the Red Lion for the community orchard where the children were given hazel twigs to beat the trees to wake them up and buckets and sticks to beat and make lots of noise.

As ever the merry band of villagers and visitors was lead by the fabulous Armallegan Morris who danced and sang at each orchard and when it got dusk danced their spectacular fire dance at the last orchard.

The celebrations were topped off with a firework display, traditional lambswool and more music and dancing at the village hall.

photo: Fiona Wilson

photo: Karen Taylor

photo: Andrew Trythall

photo: Andrew Trythall

photo: Andrew Trythall

photo: Andrew Trythall

photo: Karen Taylor

23 September 2018

The best Apple Day yet

A sunny Apple Day with a stunning display

Over 400 visitors enjoyed the lovely autumn sunshine at this year's Apple Day at the Red Lion. The pub was packed for Sunday lunch, the garden was full with people tasting over 17 different heritage varieties of apples and pears, and the car park was where the apples were being pressed.

By far the best part of the day was former fruit farmer, Paul Chilton's, GIANT display of heritage varieties of apple presented in the traditional exhibition style. This year he excelled with 122 varieties; you will NEVER see these apples in a supermarket!

Some of varieties of apple for tasting included Ashmead's Kernel, Adam's Pearmain, Golden Pippin, Spartan, Wagner, Claygate Pearmain, Blenheim Orange, Red Delicious as well as Egremont Russet and St Cecilia; all of these are grown in the village gardens and orchards.

People could also taste the chutneys and decide which one to go with their cheese baguette or a pulled pork bap.

The Brightwell Supporting Refugees raised almost £300 on their stall selling an amazing choice of cakes, pastries and biscuits.

The apple press was running from 12.00 until 3.00 and we made over 120 litres of juice.  Some brought their own apples and bottles which was very satisfying to see, after all, using the fruit that would otherwise have gone to waste was the very reason this village bought the press in 2009..

This was a great family day out with the kids really enjoying the apple activities.  Many of them took the apple bobbing very seriously and ended up soaked from head to waist; lucky the sun was shining!

22 August 2018

Scything this summer

The wildflower meadow amongst the trees this summer was wonderful; many of them grew to waist high.  We mowed the orchard this weekend using traditional Austrian scythes.  It is so pleasing to cut through the grasses with a sharp blade and a mesmeric swing.  Have a look at the before and after.



16 August 2018

Scrumping Season

The first season fruit is ripe and ready for the picking. James Grieve, Miller's Seedling, Discovery and Tydemans Early Worcester as well as the Victoria plums and Greengage.

The Scrumping Season has already started.  Remember, the way to tell whether the apples are ripe is to see if there are any windfalls.  When the fruit starts dropping they are perfect for picking.

23 April 2018

Look at the trees - they look fabulous

The trees have been growing so well that they have outgrown their protective frames; fruit buds have been sticking through on all sides.

In just a few hours a group of willing helpers removed all the frames around the trees and now the orchard is now looking like the real thing.  Not bad having only been planted in November 2014.

As long as we don't get a late frost like last year it looks like we will have a bumper harvest.


6 April 2018

Spring in the orchard

Hello Spring. At last we are pleased to see spring flowers emerging in the orchard and plenty of fruit buds setting on the trees.
Daffodils amongst the Ash

Common Bugle (Ajuga Reptans)

7 January 2018

6th Annual Wassail

Sotwell hosts one of the largest Wassail processions in Oxfordshire and this year's activities were as lively and wacky as ever. Wassailers met at the Red Lion for a 3 pm start and lots of villagers and their friends remembered to bring something to blow or bang - this was most definitely a hit with the younger ones!

The Wassail procession visited several orchards large and small, old and new. At each orchard bread dipped in cider was hung in the apple trees to feed the Robin, the good spirit of the orchard.  The trees were woken up in time for Spring by beating the trunks with willow sticks. It was most important to drive off the bad spirits of the orchard by producing lots of noise to scare them away - pots, pans, bells, horns and of course shotgun blasts through the trees.  And fireworks of course!

master of ceremonies for wassail in oxfordshire shotgun blasts to scare the evil spirits in brightwell cum sotwell

wassailing in oxfordshire

wassail in the orchards

The procession ended at the Stewart Village Hall with children's dances, songs and a display by the magnificent Armaleggan Border Dancers.

armaleggan border dancers at wassail 2018

wassail fire dancers wassail 2018

man with fire brand stick for dancing

border dancers in fire dance red lion brightwell cum sotwell

fireworks in orchards wassail procession

In the evening there was a new celebration; a Wassail Dance.

The Band from Rockall lead the dances (one of the UK's youngest and most fabulous Ceilidh groups and not to missed). They included many traditional Gaelic songs and more modern numbers to get us dancing.

At one point during the evening our very own Brightwell Village Mummers’ Players burst in to entertain us with this year's play.

Mark Brock (Red Lion) provided the fully licensed bar and great food included dishes with an "orchard" theme.

This year donations from the Wassail festivities were collected for refurbishment of the village playgrounds and for Maeve's Magical Journey.

Have a look at some of the fun from 2018 on Facebook 
There is also 20162015 - 2014 on YouTube