New Ash Green, a community orchard for the last 12 years. In 2003 the Woodlands Group was formed to save the Orchard. It has been transformed and is once again a thriving traditional orchard providing a rich habitat for plants, lichens, insects and birds. New trees have been planted to fill gaps and increase diversity. However, at the moment it is growing to the sky but with some judicial pruning, the height of these trees will diminish over the next few years.
The New Ash Green Woodlanders Group formed of local residents meet every month to manage the orchard and woodlands of New Ash Green. Having started by restoring the village’s community orchard to its former glory, it cannot be all done at once and by just them, so volunteer help is much appreciated so if you fancy a day, ‘going down to the woods one day’, just get in touch and join the group.
This magical orchard was once used as a picnic site in the 1970’s until it became over grown, can now celebrate this tradition again. The season starts with the beautiful pink blossom of the trees surrounded by some damson amid the woodland and houses. Followed by a summer of green grass and the white froth of cow parsley, the fruit plumps up during those season a mist and mellow fruitful ness when all hands to the trees. The Bramley’s are picked and the Woodlander Group embraces the task of making cider for their event.
The Wassail custom of old involved the local farm-workers visiting their orchards after dark, usually between the 5th and 17th January each year. The best tree would be selected to represent the whole orchard. Cider would be poured over its roots and pieces of toast or cakes, soaked in cider, would be placed in the forks of branches and impaled on twigs. The wassail song would be sung or chanted as a blessing to bring a good crop in the coming year and the tree would be toasted loudly and merrily. Eventually horns would be blown and a great deal of noise would generally be made to scare off bad spirits and awaken the tree from its winter slumber.
Over the last few years our Wassail throng has grown – so join the torch lit procession each year from New Ash Green Village Hall to the orchard, to sing a few rousing choruses of the New Ash Green Wassail Song, written specially for the occasion, and to sample some of their delicious homemade mulled cider!