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The ancient tradition of Wassailing

Wassailing is an ancient Pagan ceremony that has been celebrated in the West Country for a Millenium and more. The word “Wassail” comes from old Norse.  It’s a toast and it means “be thou healthy” and the correct response is “Drink Hail”. On Saturday 13th Jan the Holman Clavel pub hosted such a Wassail celebration.

We started by waking the new apple tree. The narrator was Steve Watkins who was resplendent in his top hat. We lit flaming wax torches and circled anti-clockwise (known as Widdershins), making as much noise as possible and singing “Here we come a wassailing”.

The next stage was to name the tree. So we took the first name of the youngest person present, Harper, and the last name of the oldest person, Morrow, and that became the name of the tree.

A young girl was the Wassail Queen and her duty was to place cider-soaked toast in the branches of the tree, to tempt good spirits to dwell there, whilst we all sang another song “Oh Apple Tree, we’ll wassail thee”.

Lastly the oldest person present poured cider from a wassail cup onto the roots of the tree whilst all the crowd recited

“Apples now,

Hat-fulls, cap-fulls

Three bushel bag-fulls

and a little heap under the stairs”

Wassailers repeated these words 3 times, getting louder and louder.

People then disbursed into the pub or around the brazier with mulled cider and the wassailing was over. A bit of madness? Maybe, but after all it’s tradition!!



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Happy New Year


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Apple pressing in the Blackdown Hills

We have been to two apple pressing events this October, one in Buckland St Mary earlier in the month, and then another one at Stentwood the weekend just gone.  These are community events organised by the Blackdown Hills Transition Group of which we are members.


Basically we invite anybody to bring their apples along and use the equipment to turn them into apple juice.

Firstly you have to tip apples into the crusher. We used a mixture of both eating apples and cooking apples.


This breaks the apples down into pulp that can go into the presses.


The apple pulp is then transferred into a linen bag and put into a press.  Gradually turning the handle round presses down on the pulp and the juice is then collected below.



The juice turns brown as the apples oxidise.  The next process is to bottle it up.  We use a jug and a funnel to transfer the juice into bottles. If the apple juice is put into plastic bottles it can be frozen to keep it fresh, otherwise it will start to ferment after 3 or 4 days. If the juice is bottled in glass bottles it can be pasteurised for 35 minutes at 75 degrees C and this will keep it to up to a year.


Bottling up

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Ilfracombe in the rain

Last week we had a couple of days away in North Devon in the resort of Ilfracombe, just 2 hours drive from here.  We booked a pleasant B&B (busman’s holiday for us) but thought a change of scenery would be good.  Unfortunately the weather was against us. The first day it rained constantly all day, but we decided to make the best of it and went for a walk to see the sites.

The tide was out, the coast line very rugged.


Unperturbed by the weather we ventured forth with our brolly up.



We walked down to the harbour to see the boats.


At the end of the quay stands “Verity” a 66 foot high statue of a naked pregnant woman standing on law books and holding the scales of justice behind her back in one hand, and a sword held high in the other.  It is by Damian Hurst and to my opinion quite grotesque.  I think it is something that divides the locals in opinion.


One side is the outer body and the other side is the internal view!!


After a nice breakfast is our B&B the next day we set off to the “Tunnels beaches”.


Tunnels were dug out by Welsh miners in the Victorian era to provide a way through to the beaches, one for women and one for men, and the Victorian bathing pools.  The time of our visit saw the tide up so we couldn’t see the bathing pools but we did go through the tunnels.


We went down onto the women’s beach and Neil took the opportunity to skim some stones, something he is very good at.


On the way back we stopped off at the theatre, known locally as “Madonna’s Bra” due to its large conical turrets. It would appear they have a wide and varied programme of events there.


As the weather continued to be inclement we decided to head for home early and came back to lunch in the local pub “The Candlelight” in Bishopswood and very nice it was too.

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Making a floral basket

Yesterday I went to a flower arranging at a local village hall.  The idea was to make a country basket brimming with flowers.  Firstly we watched a demonstration, then we were able to have a go ourselves.

The first stage is to cut then soak the oasis.  To soak it you just pop it into cold water and without touching it, let it fill with water and change colour to dark green.  Then you take it out and place into the basket, but first chamfer the edges so you create a larger area into which to push the flowers.


Next you gradually add the greenery all the way round and also in the middle.  You need lots of foliage to give a basis for the flowers to sit on.


I then started added the delicate flowers such as Campion and Ox Eye Daises into the foliage.


Next I added the peonies.


And lastly, a rose, the gerberas and chrysanthemums to fill it with flowers.


Here’s a view from on top.


I have never done anything like this before so was quite pleased with the results and found it quite easy so will be able to do it again in the future.

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Helping out at Taunton Foodbank

Neil and I have been volunteering at Taunton Foodbank now for 4 years.   The local County Gazette did an article on the Foodbank pictured both Neil and I.  Here is the link:-

5th May 2016


VOLUNTEER COUPLE: Neil and Kathy Arnold

VOLUNTEER COUPLE: Neil and Kathy Arnold

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Beautiful Bluebells

One of our favourite walks is to go to Otterhead Lakes and walk by the lakes and through the woodland.  We went a couple of weeks ago when my brother was here but the bluebells were not quite out so we went again today to see the beautiful carpets of flowers.


The sunlight was just shining through the emerging Beech trees with their light green leaves.


Just off the path before the bluebells were beds of wild garlic.


As we walked further down the blue of the bluebells got more intense.



Neil took my picture sitting amongst the flowers.



This is such a beautiful place, so peaceful and today there were no other people around, just the sound of the birds and the rustling leaves.


We stopped by the first lake and could see the swan still sitting on her nest and also the Heron was in the same place as we had seen it a couple of weeks ago.  I took a picture of Neil by the lake.


As we were driving from the car park up the lane we noticed that the Devon banks were also topped with bluebells.



We are so lucky to live nearby.

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