ABC Wednesday - Y is For...

... YAWA - Your Guide to January's Top Events

Last year when ABC Wednesday was back at S, I promised You Ask, We Answer would provide a guide to UK gardening events for 2009. At the time I thought I'd just highlight the quirky like the sprout festival Anna had found, but on doing some research, I thought it would be good to include all manner of things which you might be interested in hearing about or even attending. I found the list got ever larger, so I've divided it into a monthly guide.

Although it's winter and our gardening activities are severely curtailed, there's still plenty of events to highlight this month:

Gardeners' Question Time - 9th January onwards. Not really an event, but a new time to note. The new broadcast day changes from Sunday to Friday afternoon at 3pm, with a full repeat (not shortened like today's will be) on Sundays at 2pm. It looks like the content's undergoing a revamp, as we're promised a weekly rant from one of the panellists!

Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival - it was customary for this farming community near Peterborough to dress one of their number in straw and parade him round the town the Tuesday after Plough Monday (which is the first Monday after Twelfth Night). The festival was revived in 1980 and is 9-11th January this year. The website has some interesting pictures of the event dating back to 1900.

Wassailing - traditionally takes place on 17th January, the old Twelfth Night *. Wassailing is an ancient ritual (probably with pagan roots) performed to ensure apple trees fruit well in the autumn. It differs from place to place, but it usually involves pouring cider onto the tree's roots, banging anything to hand to make a noise and shots fired through the branches to ward off evil spirits. Warm cider is drunk and toast soaked in cider is placed in the branches for the robin and Wassail songs are sung. 'Wassail' is from the Anglo-Saxon 'waes haeil', to be in good health. Details of wassailing events across the country can be found here - note that some of them happen before January 17th.

RHS Question Time Online - 20th January. A chance for you to ask your burning questions about the RHS and where it's headed. You don't have to be a member to take part, but you do have to register. I'm posting separately about this event at the weekend.

Potato Days - started over a decade ago by Garden Organic who were worried our heritage potato varieties might die out, potato days have become a popular January event. The weekend of the 24/25 January is the 'official' date for this year, but many events can be found on other dates and locations too. I'm delighted a local event will be held in Malmesbury on January 31st, which Threadspider and I hope to attend, so consequently I'm also hoping to post separately about our adventures. Note that Garden Organic's day on the 24th January is for members only and the public day is on the 25th.

RSPB Garden Birdwatch - 24-25th January. A must-do event in my view and in the comfort of your own home. Grab a cuppa and spend an hour watching and recording which of our feathered friends visit your garden. Here's the results of my survey last year. The RSPB website has full details and you can send in your results online.

* = I think (but I haven't found confirmation) this is referring to the change from the Julian to Gregorian calendar in 1752, when an adjustment of 11 days was made in September, Thus our current Twelfth Night (6th January) + 11 days = 17th January. The other big change was January 1st replaced March 25th as New Year's Day, but the former date is still preserved in our calendar as a starting day as 6th April is the start of our tax year (25th March + 11 days = April 5th, adjusted by an extra day from 1800 to give the current start to our fiscal year).

I hope you get to enjoy an event for January. Do let me know if I've left anything out, or of any you think are worthy of including in future YAWA listings. Otherwise Waes haeil everyone and see you next month!


  1. I'm envious of all the activities available to you at this time of year! We don't even have many decent gardening shows on television any more.

  2. Thanks for the heads up pn the change of time for GQT, I hadn't noticed that. The Sunday morning Gardening programme (about 9:15am) on Radio Bristol / Somerset is very good too.

  3. I am thinking of having a 'Wassailing' party this year!! I saw the celebrations on the Christmas edition of 'Lark Rise to Candleford' and yesterday on Radio 4 as well. I love the idea.

  4. I have only just got used to Gardeners Question Time being on Wednesday - if I am in the office I listen to it then. I suppose I can always track it down via Listen Again on I Player

  5. So much to look forward to! This brightened up a cold dull day for me.

  6. oh look, you've got everything planned out for this month. might as well write down mine too. :D

    mine is here. hope you can visit too!

    Happy Wednesday!

  7. How interesting about the Wassailing! Something to look forward in the dreary aftermath of Christmas. :)

  8. VP .. I think there should be an official chocolate/fudge day in January. Something that all of us NEED in such a bland month, with many of us under snow and feeling rather glum.
    Nothing like a good shot of sugar to encourage us to get happy, and write up more garden plans, or general "to do" lists ?
    Just a suggestion .. you don't have to publish this : )
    PS .. after all , we have to WAIT until February for that official chocolate day .. hum ? then January should be official FUDGE day, since February has chocolate.
    Maybe I have have fudge on the brain .. sorry : )

  9. Thanks for the reminder for the Garden Birdwatch, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary! xx

  10. You have so many activities available - there's nothing round here.
    Thanks for the RSPB reminder. We used to participate regularly where we lived before. Maybe it's time to start again!

    Thank you, on behalf of the ABC Team, for your participation this week.

  11. My California garden is a llong way from yours, but I really enjoy your research into such things as wassailing. Who knew? I always thought it was associated with Christmas caroling.

    As I sat here at my computer in view of my redwood tree, I have seen a Stellars jay, a titmouse, and something blue (through the branches) creeping (beak down) down the rough bark. That's in the last ten minutes.

  12. I love the concept of wassailing - celebrating trees. We could do with a lot more of that around here, where trees are too often considered obstacles to be removed. I also like the idea of communal drinking & singing. Too bad there's nothing like that around here. Sigh...

  13. Wassail the 17th.
    how fun!
    I do not have an apple tree, but I do like apple cider
    Now, what to ask the RHS?
    Do you have a question?

  14. All of that is going on in January? Well I better get busy visiting blogs and such. Wasailling sp? or some such thing as that sounds folksy and fun. Hearing about the gun being shot to ward off the bad...reminds me of an event recently in my own yard.

    Since you and I have this wonderful tale telling competition going on...her goes!

    MrD was out working on Copper Top Cottge. Some flock of birds were migrating through along about the same time as MrD was also where they chose to roost for the night.

    I was inside on the puter and heard a racket down toward his way. I let it go on for a bit as I was really enjoying my blogomaniac sesson. But curiosity got the best of me.

    MrD was in quite a fix. Later he would tell me it was a war zone. It appears that when birds go to roost at night, they also enjoy a good bowel movement.

    MrD is not fond of bird crap and so he was clapping the birds out of the trees which was a futile effort at best. From a safe distance away up on my back porch, I could see what was happening.

    Every time he clapped his hands, the birds took flight which added fuel to the expelling of the waste. He said that bird droppings were landing all over the floor, walls, leaves, tools, glasses, hair, and body. He did look like a doo doo head when he came up to the house But that didn't seem out of the ordinary.

    From my perch on the porch, I could see the birds circle around and continue to land back in the very same trees they started from. I don't know where MrD expected a bunch of tired birds to land. Our little patch of woods is about as good as it gets come roosting time.

    And so, I reckon he would be a good Wassailing partner.

  15. Hi everyone - glad you found this one useful, fun and informative. I see that wassailing has been particularly popular, something I'll try and remember to expand on next year. I've got too many posts lined up to squeeze it in this year I'm afraid, but in the meantime the links give you plenty of information if you'd like to find out more.

    We sang a wassailing song at choir on Monday, our choirmaster is often giving us drinking songs to sing! It wasn't the usual one either. Something else to show you another time.

    I'll come over and visit all of you over at your place rather than leaving particular responses to you here except for:

    Philip - thanks for the info re the Radio Bristol programme. I'll see if I can tune into it here or via the internet.

    Matron - Lark Rise is filmed about 5 miles from here. Love the idea of a wassailing party!

    Joy - there is a chocolate week much later in the year. I like your idea of a fudge day (or even better a week!) too

    Philip - I already have a long list of questions from an article I wrote last year which is steadily getting added to :)

    Granny Smith - welcome and thanks for stopping by. I love your description of what you can see out the window.

    Anna - MrD sounds like prime wassailing material, I loved your story :)


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