Wassailing as Rural Mission February 2024

When you have an orchard & are looking to connect with the wider community, there’s plenty of opportunity to be creative in mission. We’ve caught up with Alan Hewitt, one of last year’s Rural Ministry Course participants, to hear more about a recent event held in the family orchard.

Alan: ‘We have been wassailing our orchards now for 12 years. What started as a bit of fun has taken over our village for twelfth night. Our first wassail was 30 people who thought we were daft. The one last month was attended by over 300. Many urban people love these traditions, and so do we.’

Alan’s family have about 20 acres of orchards on a tenanted farm at Dunham Massey and have been producing apple juice for years. Now his son Chris, as the third generation to farm this land, is taking it forward making cider. Their claim to fame is that they are the only commercial orchards in Greater Manchester, just ten miles from the city centre.

The idea of wassailing – blessing, toasting, sharing and giving thanks during the Yuletide period – originates in Anglo-Saxon times and has continued through the centuries. Wassail, or ‘Was Hael’ meaning ‘good health’.

Alan: ‘We hang toast in the trees and pour cider around the roots of a selected tree, fire shotguns over the trees to wake up the spirits within the trees from their winter slumber. A local vicar blesses our orchard and family, it must work because we are still here!’

The event now also includes a hog roast and pizzas. Held primarily as a charity fundraiser, with donations this year in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust.

Alan Hewitt – Dunham Massey Apple Juice, Cheshire