Samhain on the Farm
2 November 2022
The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in, and we’re writing this while sheltering in a roundhouse as a rainstorm grumbles overhead… Is it officially starting to tip towards winter?
In this update… We celebrate Samhain, lay a Saxon hedge, spot rare wildlife, and start getting excited for next year’s Beltain!
Beltain is our biggest and most exciting event of the year, and we’re already thinking about the one in 2023… Listen, the promise of setting fire to a big wickerman is never far from our mind!
It really is a spectacular event, and it always sells out — increasingly quickly as well! We wanted to make sure as many people as possible get a chance to grab tickets, so we’re mixing up how we release them this year and doing it in several installments.
The earlybird ticket release has just gone live for supporters at the Pioneer and Hero levels If that’s you, check your email to book your tickets!
But if that’s not you don’t worry, the next ticket release isn’t far behind 😊
Rain vs roundhouse
The weather might be (concerningly) balmy, but we’ve definitely seen our fair share of rain these last few days!
Thatch really is incredibly watertight, considering it’s a lot of individual plant stalks. While out in the wet, our groundskeeper Will took this quick clip of the rain filtering through the thatch — it’s a great demonstration of how thatch works! Notice how the rain drips down several layers of thatch before being wicked away from the roundhouse wall.
Imagine: you’re a Saxon farmer, and you need to keep your livestock contained to a field. You can’t use wire — chicken or barbed — and wooden fences only last so long. What do you do?
For the last few weeks (and continuing on until Christmas!), Butser treewright Darren has been laying a hedge all along one of our borders — all while teaching a band of volunteers from local colleges this ancient skill. It’s fascinating to watch: it can look quite brutal, but the results are gorgeous!
Happy Samhain! This ancient festival (pronounced ‘sau-ihn’ if you want to use the Gaelige) is celebrated on the 31st October – 1st November, and was thought to be a time when the veil between worlds grew thin and spirits and ghosts could enter the living realm.
We don’t know much about the origins of this festival or how exactly it was celebrated, but it does seem to be very ancient. It’s first mentioned in 9th century Irish texts, but there are some Neolithic tombs that align with the sunrise at Samhain, so who knows how old it really is…
Samhain is now considered one of the four major festivals in the Gaelic calendar — next up is Imbolc in February, and then Beltain!
A pair of kites...
This week, we’ve been host to a pair of red kites! These gorgeous birds have been an utter delight to watch — they’ve been wheeling and soaring overhead, and we’ve been hearing a lot of their distinctive calls.
Red kites used to be almost extinct in the UK before a massive conservation project brought them back from the brink. They weren’t seen in London for 150 years, only returning in 2006, so it’s been a real joy to watch them thriving on the farm!
We decided to put our standing stone to good use and offered up some deer meat we had from a Stone Age demonstration. They certainly seem to have appreciated it!