Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Arbor Day, Aston on Clun

Posted on by royvickery |

Aston on Clun, Shropshire, holds an event known as Arbor Day on the last Sunday in May each year, in 2023, 28 May.

A black poplar, Populus nigra, growing at the centre of the small village has flags hug from it.  In 2023 these included three coronation flags. The flags remain in place until they are replaced the following year.  In 2023 a number of small home-made birds and beasts were also attached to the tree.

The ‘official’ history of the event includes the Celtic goddess, Brigit, later christianised as St Bridget or St Bride; Oak Apple Day, 29 May, which commemorates the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, and the marriage of John Marston and Mary Carter on 29 May 1786.  However, John Box, in his ‘Dressing the Arbor Tree’, in Folklore 114 (2003), was unable to find any mention of the Arbor (then known as Arbour) tree before 1898, and no record of the tree being dressed before 1912.  It seems that until the 1950s the flags were simply replaced each year ‘without much ceremony’.  Later it became an ‘event’ with local school children re-enacting the marriage of John and Mary Marston, morris dancers, and a fete.

However, by 2023 the ceremony had become truncated, and consisted on a couple of songs accompanied by hurdy-gurdy and pipe-and-tabor, a talk on the history of the Tree, and a blessing, followed by a rather sedate fete on the village green, and refreshments in the village hall, where a local ukele group performed.  Flags which had been attached to the tree in previous years were available ‘for a small donation’.

Edited 8 December 2023.

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