It was the eve of Oak Apple Day, and the annual reassertion of rights to collect wood in the Royal Forest of Grovely by the villagers of Great Wishford in accordance with a charter granted to them in 1603. […] In all seriousness, it requires the whole village to ‘go in a dance’ to Salisbury Cathedral six miles away once a year in May and claim their rights and customs in the forest with ‘The Shout’ of the words ‘Grovely! Grovely! Grovely! and all Grovely!’ […]
[…] at five minutes to four, the rough band struck up in the village below: a cacophony of everything noisy that would serve to wake the citizenry. It was not a pretty sound that rose up the hill through the mist. Bass drum, hunting horn, saucepan lids, football rattles and the old church bell on a trolley were all trundled in ragged procession from house to house and vigorously sounded until the lights came on. It was all trick and no treat.
By the time we reached the village the rough band was returning to the Town End Tree at the far end from the church, now an oak but reputedly an ancient elm in earlier times. It marks the starting point for the Oak Apple Day procession in the afternoon. Lights were going on in the windows, sending beams out on the mist, and wood-pigeons still slept on the telegraph wires. The church bells pealed, and people armed with billhooks and bowsaws began to appear under the bunting in West Street, heading for the woods.
I went with them, hiking back up the hill […]
I was back in Great Wishford at half past eight by the church clock, as the bells pealed and they hoisted the marriage bough up the outside of the tower to hang it off the top like a flag. [We] adjourned to the Royal Oak for breakfast before piling into coaches to travel the six miles to Salisbury.
At the cathedral, four women in the rural costume as worn by Wishford women in 1825, holding bundles of hazel and oak sticks above their heads, danced a stately measure to the music of a squeeze-box on the lawn of the close. They performed in a square marked by garlands of oak, watched by the Oak Apple Club, assembled beside a large banner proclaiming ‘Unity is Strength’. We all crowded into the cathedral, and the shout went up before the priest at the altar: ‘Grovely! Grovely! Grovely! and all Grovely!’ […]
Everyone trooped back for a huge sit-down lunch with toasts, yards of trestle tables and dozens of speeches by local dignitaries in a marquee in the Oak Apple Field. […] Still not sated with all this ritual and ceremony, the company, now numbering well over a thousand, assembled at the Town End Tree for a post-prandial beating of the bounds in a procession led by a brass band and the four stick-dancers followed by the Oak Apple Club banner, a May Queen, villagers carrying their oak boughs, farmers with painted wheelbarrows and the Bourne River Morris Men. They went all round the village and across the water meadows as far as the parish boundary at the Stoford River Bridge and back. Then the Morris men danced, and there were games and a fête on the Oak Apple Field. << less