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Wassailing & Cider

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Wassail Cup
Cider Competition

After a very wet day an informal band of 'wassailers' set out to Townsend Community Orchard on Saturday 9th January to wish the trees "good growth in the coming year and a bountiful crop of fruit". All wassailers were grateful that the rain had stopped for the event!

In case you missed the relevant edition of The Archers on Radio 4 this week, the traditional traditional wassail chant goes like this:

Here stands a good old (or young!) apple tree
Stand fast root — bear well top
Let's hope we get — a howling good crop
Every little bough — bear apples big
Every little twig — bear apples big
Hat fulls — cap fulls
Three score sack fulls — and a little heap under the stairs

(all holler!)

With enough noise this scares of the evil spirits (and parasitic bugs!) ... but no-one thought to bring a piece of toast for the wrens!

Hot mulled cider was drunk from three-handled wassail mugs and a little cider was poured around the roots of the trees.

The group didn't need to wassail every tree as the effects are said to spread through mycorrhiza in the soil to all the trees — or will be when they get re-established following the recent disturbance for tree planting.

It has been suggested that next year's wassail might start a little earlier in daylight/dusk so that more people will be able to attend — particularly children. Organisers would also like to have some music next year, and perhaps some morris dancers (though they can frighten off more than evil spirits!).

Editor's Note: If all this leaves you a feeling a little bewildered, join the club! But you can view a fascinating and insightful (?) video here. Or read about it here.

Cider Competition
Later that same evening people gathered at the Rising Sun for the 5th annual Haddenham Cider Competition. This year's judges were Revd. Margot Hodson, Alexandra Gardiner and Kevin Rooney.

After sampling seven ciders, making notes and scoring for aroma, smoothness, fruitiness, freshness of taste, after-taste and other attributes, they declared Richard Moore's 'Temptation' the winner.

Having won last year's competition Richard again carried home the Haddenham Cider competition trophy (his wife said she won't hear the end of it!).

Each competitor has to declare where in the village the apples which made the cider came from. Richard is very cagey about his source of apples but says they come from the edge of a railway embankment — many are keen to learn the secret of his success, though one of the fundamentals of cider making is cleanliness (sterilising) of you equipment and bottles.

A close runner up was Rob Daniels with his cider 'Rob's Revenge' which some argue should have won, but all have agreed to accept the judges decision (unlike the Midsomer murders village, we don't need a turf war!). Rob also makes perry and it has been suggested that in future we may have a perry competition too — though we need more pear trees! New entrant Ollie Borgnis was pleased to be placed 5th in the scoring with his cider 'Green Gables' made from apples from his garden.

Making cider is very easy: basically you mash the apples (a good way to use bruised ones/windfalls etc), press out the juice and wait for it to ferment and then you have cider! You do need to sterilise your barrels, tubes etc and most people tend to bottle theirs, but you don't need to add yeast — it occurs naturally on the apples! Some people add sugar to boost the alcohol content and add fiz to bottled cider.

If you would like to have a go at cider making next autumn you can borrow the Haddenham cider press and mill for a small contribution towards its upkeep and there are plenty of people who can offer advice. For more information, contact David Lyons (01844 296174).