Oak Apple Day

by David Feather

It is Oak Apple Day on Friday 29th May

If you do not know what an “oak apple” is, it is little ball, a gall, that is formed on oak tree foliage. It is caused by the larva of a cynipid wasp.

Oak gall and an adult oak gall wasp

Oak apple day is celebrated because it commemorates the Birthday of King Charles II and his escape from his pursuing Roundheads on 29th May. Legend has it that the future king hid in an oak tree after the Cavalier army’s defeat at the Battle of Worcester.

This day is celebrated at many places across Britain with the nearest to us being Salisbury and Great Wishford. On Oak Apple Day morning the men of Great Wishford village go to Grovely wood very early, and collect their own bough (with oak ‘apples’) to be carried in procession later in the day.

Oak Apple Day celebrations.

Meanwhile, the women of the village decorate their cottages with flags and bunting. A coach takes a party of villagers to Salisbury, where a small group of women dancers, in traditional costume, perform a dance in the precincts, symbolizing women who protested when the lord of the manor threatened to take away their right to gather wood. The ‘refrain’ is then shouted at full volume in the cathedral. Later there is a dinner and a fair. The whole thing is organised by the Oak Apple committee.

Lockdown conditions will clearly affect them this year.

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