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In pictures: Mistletoe auction is sprig business in these parts

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It's a yearly pilgrimage for many and still attracting newcomers, as a town's annual mistletoe auctions mark the start of the festive season.

Tenbury Wells prides itself on being the mistletoe capital of England, and central to that are the auctions of seasonal foliage that bring people from all over the country every year.

Whether its homeowners simply after a wreath for the front door, or businesses looking to sell on what they buy, buyers flock to the small town on the Shropshire border at this time of year, as do sellers.

Yesterday was the first of three auctions to be held over the coming weeks, in a tradition dating back decades.

Tenbury Wells sits in the heart of a region rich with orchards, which is why the sales are centred there – mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on apple trees – though nowadays, of course, only some of the produce on display is local.

Today the auctions, put on every Tuesday from this week, are at Burford House Garden Store, in the village on the outskirts of Tenbury, though previously they were on an industrial estate, and before that in the town centre, for which they simply grew too big years ago.

Paul Benson, manager at Burford House, said: "This is the second year we've done it here, and it's a great turnout again. We got together with (auctioneer) Nick Champion and it works well for us – and it's great for Tenbury as it keeps the auctions local."

He said as well as hosting the auctions, the garden centre was actually bidding to buy some of what was on offer to sell in-store.

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"We get buyers from as far away as Scotland, London and Ireland," he said. "There's a lady who comes every year who has a store in Covent Garden, and she sells by the sprig, not by the bundle – she must make a killing.

"The sellers come from all over too and started bringing things down last weekend and it ends up all over the country."

One of those thinking of selling was Joe Jones, a 55-year-old scrap dealer from Newtown who was there for the first time to scope out if it was worth his while bringing foliage from his family's Mid Wales farm next week.

"We've got a few well-berried trees and we're seeing if it's worth it. A couple of years ago we heard it was £30 to £40 a bundle, last year it was £7 a bundle – it just depends on the season.

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"But either way I've bought 25 wreaths today at 90p each which is amazing."

Among those buying were Richard and Ruth Stevenson from Charlton Park Garden Centre near Oxford.

Ruth, 50, said: "We come every year. I've bought moss and wreaths, but I usually buy holly and mistletoe."

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