I’ve always liked seeing old traditions maintained, particularly when they’re regional, and the older, the better!
So it was rather nice to go down to Great Wishford in sunny Wiltshire, and see the Oak Apple day celebrations peculiar to the village….only it wasn’t sunny….it pissed down some of the time, drizzled at others, and remained steadfastly grey and windy for the rest on the Saturday. But still, for all that, we had a good time, and enjoyed the offerings of the beer tent.
Oak Apple begins with a procession of noisy villagers moving through the village, chanting “Grovely, Grovely, Grovelly and all Grovely”, and waking everyone, then a procession up to Grovely Woods to collect a bough of oak, which is taken back to the village, decorated with coloured ribbons and hung from the tower of St. Giles church, it’s called the Marriage Bough and is to bring good luck to those married in the church in the coming year…..then it’s breakfast at the Royal Oak and then on into Salisbury to the cathedral.
The villagers gather in Cathedral Close then walk in a procession to the west door, where four women dressed in early 19th century costume perform two dances, one with oak twigs, and the second with “nitches” or bundles of dry wood. After the dance, the Dean and Chapter lead the procession to the high altar, where the Charter is read out, the villagers answer with the shout of “Grovely, Grovely, Grovely and all Grovely”, there are only three “Grovely”s in the Charter, the extra one is thrown to make it “three for them and the other for us!”
After this it’s back to the village and lunch, then comes the procession through the village and the fete, the procession begins at Town End, above Grovely Cottages, and goes round the viullage, there are floats, a band, all the children from the local school, founded in 1722. At the site of the festivities, the dance by the “Nitche women” is performed again, followed by folk dancing by the children from the school, Maypole dancing and Morris men, other entertainment is usually on offer as well as a display of the childrens art, and the presentation of the prizes, including one for the best presented scarecrows – which are set up outside peoples’ houses and judged in the morning, won this year by Di Shergold and her grandchildren, Jessica, Max and Billy. The beer tent is always well attended, and the barbecue does good trade.
The celebration was split over Saturday and Sunday this year, with the cathedral part on the Sunday.
All in all, it’s a great day out for the family, and well worth going along to!