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Food festivals tend to be two-a-penny these days but this is one of the best in the country. Contact : ; aldeburghfoodanddrink. H eld every Boxing Day in the village of Middleton, not far from Dunwich, the Cutty Wren Festival is a traditional English ritual, and this is one of the only places in the country that it still takes place. It's well-worth tearing yourself away from the Boxing Day telly for this. C ontact : old-glory. We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future.

Visit our adblocking instructions page. Expert guide to Suffolk. Suffolk Walking Festival May 12—3 June Now in its 11th year, the annual Suffolk Walking Festival has well around walks and events taking place over three weeks from mid-May until early June. Some make a cake to share, with fruit, apples and nuts. All have a large and special bowl - the Wassail Bowl - which may be turned in wood, flamed in silver, or what you will provided it is treasured.

The wassail cup is for sharing - filled with spicy hot cider or wine some of the liquor is given to the trees and gods before being passed from hand to hand. Loud revels and noise are all part of Wassail - bangs and crashes, drums and sometimes wild dancing to frighten any bad spirits that may be lurking in the orchards. Frightened me I can tell you! In Sussex, this was sometimes called Howling, and by one fire, this rhyme was chanted - "Stand fast root, bear well top, may God send us a good howling crop".

And of course - fire - flaming torches to light the way to the orchards, huge bonfires, roasted pigs on open fires. I watched from behind the apple trees as the dancers danced and the bonfire shot orange and red sparks into the night sky. I drank from the Wassail Bowl, tried the cake, listened to the drumming, the crackles and bangs, and shouted 'Wassail' with the best of 'em - but I don't think anyone but the trees heard! Damned hot cider gives you unsteady wings.

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From now until 20th January, the ruling tree is still the Birch, best picked while the moon is still waxing - see here. A new page, where you can read about the nature, magic and folk lore of the Birch is now in my Ogham Tree pages if you'd like to learn more. The old calendar pre-gregorian Twelth Night falls next weekend, and many 'Wassailing of the Orchards' ceremonies are still to take place. Perhaps there is one near you?


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This fae drank from the wassail cup last weekend - pitcures coming soon! Standing at a cross-roads in the snow, frosted and lit by the moon, I heard the drum - single, slow beats - then through the frozen mist, the flames of torches could be seen, lighting faces, strange faces, painted black.

Cutty Wren (The Carmarthen Wren Song)

Solemn faces, silent. Just the drum, the footfalls in the night and the crackle of the flames. Behind them, remarkably, there must have been at least a hundred villagers, all ages, slow stepping towards the village pub on the green. Not a word from any. Exactly as they passed the ghostly tower of the church, the clock struck nine.

A rare ceremony indeed takes place each year on Wren's Day , December 26th. Something this curious fae has wanted to see for a long, long time, and at last she made the journey along the Suffolk coast. In old tradition the king of the winter birds is the wren.

The Cutty Wren Ceremony Middleton (Suffolk)

He was protected as a royal bird, and permitted to be killed only on one day - December 26th. There are two legends about him - but the one which relates to the custom of the Cutty Wren Little Wren tells of his fight with the robin over who should rule the months after December, and how he takes flight and hides in a dense bush of ivy. For hundreds of years, wrens were hunted on this day , killed and displayed, carried in procession, hidden in a little wren house made from ivy, mixed with holly and hung with long black ribbons.

The women, decked in evergreens , were the musicians accompanying the men, who sing and dance around the pole carrying the wren, hidden in its ivy cage these days not a real one! Now and then, the leader lowered the pole to the watchers and intoned 'Behold, the King', and children peered among the leaves to catch a glimpse of the tiny wooden bird. When all were gathered round, the tale was told and the song of the Wren Hunters rang out, frosted breath white in the lamp light.

Stephen's day was caught in the furze. Although he is little, his family is great, So I pray you good landlady, give us a treat. The Molly Dancers doffed heavy coats and kicked up their heels in traditional dance, and we ended by wheeling together in a huge, quiet circle. The villagers were welcoming, and they showed immense respect for the custom, the story, the dances - and thus it was moving, strange and beautiful.

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Me, avoiding the rain in the snowdrop avenue, under the limes. Composition from the programme of "An Appointment with Mr. A Bridgid's Cross made from rushes.


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I watched from behind the apple trees Revived in by the Old Glory Molly Dancers , the annual custom has been faithfully reinacted ever since. Dressed up in traditional Victorian dress, the dancers parade through the main street to the Bell pub. All three men only men danced originally, and this tradition has been continued are followed by the Wren-bearer, more men in hats and overcoats, and the musicians the women.

Following a display of molly dancing a form of Morris dancing , everyone is invited to dance in a circle around the Wren, before the Wren-bearer enters the Bell to tell the story of the wren and how it became king of the birds.

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Following one more dance, they all silently depart. A seemingly fitting end to a strange tradition. Molly dancing is not only alive in Middleton. Across Cambridgeshire, modern day molly dancers keep the ancient tradition of Plough Monday alive. Celebrated on the first Monday after Epiphany — the first day back at work after Christmas for farm labourers — Plough Monday harks back to the days when farm labourers had little work to do in the winter months.

As the work was scarce, labourers would drag a decorated plough around the larger houses in the village, begging for money. By blacking their faces with soot, they became unrecognisable. As well as the entertainment provided by musicians, an old woman or a boy dressed as an old woman and a Fool dressed in animal skins, there was also the threat of a furrowed garden should you not pay a little! With 8 offices across the region, we are ideally placed to help you move in East Anglia.