Volunteers and community members gathered for an ancient ceremony to bless the fruits of Flintshire.

Members of the Greenfield Valley Heritage Group joined visitors to the valley to perform the annual wassail of the apple orchard in the Community Garden, behind Basingwerk House.

Roberta Owen, of the Transition Holywell and District Society, was over the moon that the wonders of the garden and orchard were seen by so many, after the Greenfield Valley wardens lent a helping hand last year.

Video and pictures by Geoff Abbott

Roberta said: “We were very pleased with the way it went, and it was very nice some visitors from the Valley came along.

“Traditionally, the wassail is supposed to be on the 12th night of the new year, but we always end up doing it a bit late. The idea is to bless the apple trees and the seed that goes along with it.”

Conventionally, apple bread should be soaked in cider made from the previous year’s apples, but this group of wassailers opted for apple juice.

Roberta said: “There were loads of apples, the tree has been very good to us – because we have been singing to it.”

A selection of songs were performed to promote a healthy harvest for this year’s orchard, including traditional wassail tunes and ones the volunteers had made up themselves to go along with old Welsh tunes.

Mrs Owen added: “We gathered sticks to hit the trees with, to get rid of evil spirits. It was much fun.”

The ‘Wassail Queen’ is traditionally called upon to place the cider-soaked bread upon the tree, to spread the promise of a good harvest into its roots and into the roots of other trees.

Roberta said that they would “be there forever” if they were to soak each tree, and instead, volunteers gathered around the ancient large apple tree in the middle of the orchard to perform their blessing.

As well as blessing this “generous tree” for next year, the group stood around the plum and damson trees in a bid to cleanse their roots. Mrs Owen said: “Those Welsh fruit trees have been around a while, and during the industrial period, so you don’t know what sort of poison is running through the ground there.”

After a successful wassail, the group congregated in the Greenfield Valley Cafe to eat traditional apple cake and “hot noggy” apple juice.

In order for another successful ceremony next winter, Roberta is appealing for flute players, or other musicians, to lead the procession through the orchard.

A welcome was extended to all to the “beautiful” community garden at Greenfield, where volunteers meet every Thursday between 10am-1pm for a chat, a brew, and some gardening.