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29 October 2014

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Moonraking: The Folklore
• Oak Apple Day
Great Wishford emblem

Here's a date for your diary: 29th May, or Oak Apple Day as it is in Great Wishford near Wilton.

This special day is still celebrated in the village and perpetuates an ancient right to collect firewood in nearby Grovely Wood.

Early in the morning of 29th May, residents are woken by an excited crowd making its way to forest, where an oak bough is removed, decorated and then hanged from the tower of St Giles' Church.

In order to maintain their charter, the villagers must proclaim their right at a special ceremony in Salisbury Cathedral, where they repeat the ancient refrain: "Grovely, Grovely and all Grovely".

The celebrations are then continued back in Great Wishford, with dancing and general revelry.

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David Dimmock
I was born on 29th May 1931. On my birthday, everyone sang: "The 29th May is Oak Apple Day. If you don't give us a holiday we'll all run away."

Andy English
We certainly had to wear oak apples at primary shool in the 1960s in West Norfolk. Not to do so would certainly lead to being pinched.

Giles Phibbs
There's actually quite a lot more to it than that. The men of the village must go to Grovely very early, and collect their own bough (with oak 'apple') which will be carried in procession later in the day. Meanwhile, the women of the village are decorating their cottages with flags and bunting. A coach takes a party of villagers to Salisbury, where small group of women dancers, in traditional costume, perform a dance in the precincts, symbolizing women who protested when the lord of the manor threatened to take away their right to gather wood. The 'refrain' is then shouted at full volume in the cathedral. Later there is a dinner and a fair, the whole thing organised by the Oak Apple committee. Only lately has it been invaded by tourists and television (and web sites!)

John Fox
Oak Apples aren't acorns... they're a growth caused by a parasite on stately oak trees. Any comments about whether that's a good description of the monarchy should be directed elsewhere lol.

Gay Richardson
Oak Apple day is a very important day in Northampton. It celebrates the escape from the Roundheads by Charles II when he hid in an oak tree. A wreath of oak leaves is put onto the bust of Charles in the main square and - when I was little at any rate if not today - we all had to wear an oak apple = acorn on this day or we would have been subjected to having mud thrown at us. Presumably this was also a sign of supporting the monarcy during the years of Cromwell et all!!





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