Sussex Tales (extract) Ash Twig Stomping

Ash wednesday comes around once more and this extract from Susses Tales tells of the ancient custom passed down among Sussex school children for generations!

Jan Edwards

51ghEz6lmDL._AA160_At the bottom of the lane I slowed by the small copse that separated our lane from the main farm road. I dropped my bike on the verge and surveyed the woodland’s edge. Fortunately for me this section of frith had yet to be cleared and there were plenty of saplings to be raided. I jumped across the ditch and grabbed onto a young ash standing proud from the mass of newly emerging green. It took only a moment or two to select a couple of growing tips; slender and smooth and grey, their foliage still encased in cool black buds that looked for all the world like the hooves of tiny goats.

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Sussex Tales Christmas

Sussex Tales final cover 2nd ed smallIt’s a one-legged Woozlum.’ My father assured me. ‘It’s a cross between an Oozlum and a Woozle. Very rare.’
I looked down at the row of small round holes that trailed through the snow next to our bootprints and snorted both amusement and exasperation. I loved my fathers’ elaborate jokes but there were times when he drove me mad. This one may have worked when I was five but not anymore.
The sledge was heaped high with dark-leaved holly, bundles of ivy, fir swathes and my favourite, the gleaming, orange/pink fruited spindle. I knew they were far more than necessary, but I adored the Christmas ritual of Gathering-the-Greens. It was only I that was really interested, but with my father’s help I always made an occasion of it. We had gathered evergreens for swags and left the sledge near the ram’s shed before heading toward the Top Close where two-dozen steers were kept on deep litter for the winter months.
It had snowed hard that morning, and the sky promised a lot more to come. Leaden cloud layers spanned the sky and a stiff wind was blowing from the north.

(Extract from Sussex Tales – Christmas Bird) (available here – paper and kindle)