Wassailing helps Wilderness garden’s ‘green prescription’

Merry dance: the Black Swan Morris wassailed at The Wilderness garden to mark the start of a significant year

The Wilderness garden in Shirley is expecting bumper crops this year, after their fruit trees and vegetable patch received a visit from a group of merry wassailers…

More than 100 people attended the event in the historic garden, once the home of the noted horticulturalist the Rev William Wilkes, as the Black Swan Border Morris entertained the crowd.

The Wilderness is a seven-acre historic garden situated within MHA Hall Grange, a care home that offers residential and dementia care for up to 86 people.

Orchard wassailing is an ancient English custom dating back to Saxon times in cider-producing regions to encourage a good harvest for the coming year.

Visitors to The Wilderness enjoyed dancing, singing, and poetry reading to mark the end of the festive season.

“We set up the event to start the year of 2023 with a positive energy,” said Susanne Haynes, The Wilderness’s community coordinator.

“Wassailing is an age-old custom which we wanted to share with a community who may not have experienced it before.

Shirley treasure: the poppy developed by Rev Wilks

“2023 is a very important year for us, MHA celebrates 80 years of caring for older people, and it is 100 years since the death of Rev William Wilks and 180 since his birth.

“Without Wilks, The Wilderness would not exist and we are most grateful to him and MHA for conserving this space and allowing so many people to enjoy it.

“The event was a success since it brought in so many people who were otherwise unaware of this beautiful garden.

“Events like this play a huge supporting role in our Green Care strategy which is all about promoting health and wellbeing in nature.

“Following on from our success, we’ll be running more events that allow people to use The Wilderness as their ‘green prescription’ and improve their sense of wellbeing.

“We look forward to welcoming more people to the garden in the coming months.”



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