Flags fly high as village keeps tradition alive

Flags have been hung on the arbor tree in a county village, as locals keep traditions alive despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Paul Sweetland, Terry Bateman, Andy Marsden, Satu Bateman and Rose Sweetman on Arbor Day in Aston on Clun. Picture: David Bagnall
Paul Sweetland, Terry Bateman, Andy Marsden, Satu Bateman and Rose Sweetman on Arbor Day in Aston on Clun. Picture: David Bagnall

Bank holiday weekend was Arbor Day in Aston on Clun, one of the few English villages still to celebrate the ancient custom.

Arbor Day is a secular day of observance in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant trees.

In normal circumstances hundreds attend Aston on Clun, with children making flags, dancers, singer, poets and folk musicians all joining in a parade to the tree followed by fun and food at the village hall afterwards.

But organisers had to hold a scaled down version this year due to restrictions not yet being fully lifted.

Sandra Spence, who is on the organising committee, said: "We couldn't have a proper Arbor Day. We had about 30 people. I suppose we have around 200 normally.

"We would have the Morris dancers, activities, games and entertainment.

Paul Sweetland, Andy Marsden and Terry Bateman prepare the flags. Picture: David Bagnall

"We'd have a history section with photographs and then we'd have the ceremony around the tree.

"We've also incorporated a mock marriage before.

"It's about keeping the traditions alive and keeping the story going. It's the only tree in the country being decorated for Arbor Day.

"We're hoping to get back to normal for next year's Arbor Day.

"We did feel that seen as some restrictions were lifted, it would be worth having a small event. Fresh flags were put up on the tree and the vicar blessed the tree."

The ancient tradition of tree dressing pre-dates Christian times. Previously, children would be cast to play a bride and groom and reenact the marriage of a local squire in 1786 who decreed the tree should be dressed from then on in their honour.

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