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Apple wassailing, Brixton

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

The annual wassailing of trees in the Brixton Community Orchard, London Borough of Lambeth took place on Sunday 23 January 2022, starting at 2 p.m. and continuing for about an hour.  Earlier in the afternoon, starting at 1 p.m., people were invited to come along and learn how to prune fruit trees.

Although advertised as ‘free, family friendly event, all welcome’, very few children were present.  Proceedings were led by Brixton Tatterjacks, a mixed morris side, and opened with the singing the ‘Adapted Tatterjacks Wassail Song’ – a variant of the familiar ‘Wassail, wassail, all over the town’ with various changes, including ‘Our wassail is made of the elderberry bough’ and ‘Our cup it is made of the white elder tree’; surely cups, wassail or otherwise, are rarely, if ever, made of elder (Sambucus nigra) wood?  Another song followed, the ‘trees’ blessed, and people invited to hang toast on the branches of the apple (Malus domestica) trees, it being stressed that the toast should not all be hung on one tree, and the luck should be spread around.  Although people were not told to dip the toast in cider, most people did so.  However the few pieces of toast provided were hung on not only apple, but also, on cherry (Prunus cvs), trees.

Then followed a display of morris dancing, with two dances for the public to join in and learn.  People very willing and, and on the whole, successfully did so.

The weather was dull but mild, allowing the 100 or so people present had an enjoyable time.

Noteworthy oak trees – 1

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Midland Oak, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, said to mark the centre of England.  Postcard posted 4 July 1926.  This tree died and was removed in 1967, but a new tree, reputedly grown from one of its acorns, was planted on the spot in c.1988.

Apple wassailing, Dorking

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Apple trees were wassailed in the Dorking Community Orchard, Surrey, on Saturday 16 January 2022, starting at 4.30 p.m.  The evening was dry and cool and the event well attended.  A large bonfire, and a stall serving apple juice, cider, beer and hot dogs, were provided, Box Hill Bedlam Morris performed, and druids stood around the bonfire to deliver a blessing, before the  ‘little ones’ were invited to dip toast in cider and attach it to an apple (Malus domestica) tree.  Although most people seemed to participate in the blessing, turning to the different points of the compass as instructed, there seemed to be little enthusiasm of placing toast on the apple trees.  Indeed, little attention was paid to the trees.



Nettle reverses curses

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Packet of dried nettle, Urtica dioica, leaves on sale at White Witch, a shop in Waltham Abbey, Essex, January 2022.  Apparently nettles ‘reverse curse, ward off lightening [sic.] and add potency to spells’, all for £1.20

Commemoration of King Harold II

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |


Stone marking the position of the High Altar of Waltham Abbey, Essex, behind which Harold Godwinson, King Harold II, is believed to have been buried following his death at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066.

Recycling Christmas trees, 2022

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Poster displayed in Herne Bay, Kent, December 2021.

QUERY: Welcome-home-husband …

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Both houseleek, Sempervivum tectorum, and biting stonecrop, Sedum acre, have acquired names such as welcome-home-husband-though-never-so-drunk.

Thus Peter Wyse Jackson, in his Ireland’s Generous Nature, 2001, records welcome-home-husband-however-drunk-you-be as a name for houseleek, and states that is is due to ‘the tradition that the leaves chewed can help to disguise the aroma of alcohol on the breath’.  Gabrielle Hatfield, in Hatfield’s Herbal, 2007 suggests that houseleek may have been given this name ‘because the offshoots, which bear small rosettes, are sometimes dislodged by the wind and roll drunkenly down the roof slope’.

Welcome-home-husband-though-never-so-late was recorded for houseleek, without explanation, from Wareham, Dorset, in 1991.

Welcome-home-husband-though-never-so-drunk has been recorded for biting stonecrop in Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset and Suffolk.  This has been explained by Jonathan Tulloch, in The Times ‘Nature Notes’ of 12 August 2020 as ‘probably reflect[ing] the fact that it can gleam so brightly on a roof that the befuddled pubgoer could find their way home well after closing time’.

Has anyone any further explanations for these names, or any comments on them?  If you do, please send them to

Images:  upper, houseleek, planted, St Peter and St Paul churchyard, London Borough of Merton, March 2014; lower, biting stonecrop, Tooting Common, London Borough of Wandsworth, June 2021.

Flowers for D.C. Jim Morrison

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |


Flowers placed in front of a memorial to Detective Constable Jim Morrison, in Montreal Place, Covent Garden, City of Westminster.  26-year-old Morrison was fatally stabbed on 13 December 1991, when he was off duty but trying to arrest a suspected a bag thief.

Photographed 7 January 2022.



Christmas Eve Vespers at St Sava’s

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Christmas Eve Vespers were celebrated at St Sava’s Serbian Orthodox Church, in Notting Hill, London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, on Thursday 6 January 2022, starting at 7 p.m.  The church was packed.  A yule, a dead but leafy oak branch was placed near the entrance; straw was strewn on the floor, and glasses containing young wheat plants were placed beside icons (see posting of 8 January 2017 for details).

At the conclusion of the service people were given small bundles of straw and oak twigs (Turkey oak, Quercus cerris), to take home and burn, apparently ‘for luck’.

Comment from Jane Lawson:  My neighbour Bishop Seraphim Newman-Norman [Patriarch of Glastonbury and Head of the British Orthodox Church] says that the oak in the bundles symbolises sacredness, and the straw the straw of the Bethlehem stable.

Photograph of yule taken on Christmas Day, 7 January 2022, © Carlos Bruzon.

Updated 8 January 2022.

Decorations on Sparrowhawk grave

Date of the post: Posted on by royvickery |

Decorated grave of Ronnie (d. 2007) and Nellie (d. 2020) Sparrowhawk, in London Road Cemetery, London Borough of Merton, 3 January 2022.

The Sparrowhawk family were travellers who ran a successful rag and scrap metal business – Jack Sparrowhawk & Sons – in Mitcham, from 1926 until 2014. Amongst other things they were appreciated for their willingness to take away the residue left at the end of jumble sales, paying a small amount for the debris.

In south London cemeteries the graves of travellers can often be recognised by their exuberant decorations, and depictions of horses, often pulling caravans, on the gravestones.

Edited 23 January 2022.

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