Here we go a-bollarding

Here we go a-bollarding

Active travel enthusiasts gathered in East Oxford on Saturday to ‘wassail’ the low traffic neighbourhood bollards across St. Mary’s and wish them good fortune in the coming year.

Clad in a mix of hi-vis and traditional feathers, the group sang and danced around the wooden bollards as well as leaving them toast soaked in ‘wassail’, as is traditional.

Orchard wassailing is an ancient English tradition to awaken the cider apple trees and scare away the evil spirits to ensure a good harvest in the autumn. Songs and dances take place, and toast soaked in wassail from a Clayen Cup is placed in the branches. An incantation is recited followed by making noise to drive away evil spirits.

In this celebration of the wooden bollards, the normally alcoholic wassail was replaced by coffee out of respect to the diverse community of East Oxford. A version of a traditional wassailing carol was composed for the occasion, which we’ve reproduced below.

During the wassail participants frequently had to move out of the way, for bicycles, pedestrians and several wheelchairs including one with a service dog.

Bollards on Howard Street, Magdalen Road, Leopold Street and Bullingdon Road were visited.

The Oxford Bollard Wassail

To the Gloucestershire Wassail

Wassail wassail all over the town,
Our toast is it brown and our coffee is brown
Our bollard is made of some sort of tree
With the wassail bowl we’ll drink unto thee

So here's to the children that play in the street
From fast moving cars they no more must be meek
From being shut in houses at last they are free
With the wassail bowl we’ll drink unto thee

So here's to the old folks that walk to the shops
Without fearing that down by  a car they’d be knocked
For the cars are all gone from our roads as you see
With the wassail bowl we’ll drink unto thee

So here's to commuters that cycle to work
Through the backstreets of Oxford through sunshine or murk
With a jacket for high visibility
With the wassail bowl we’ll drink unto thee

And here’s to the bollards that stand in our road
Put there by the council to lighten our load
Although they’re not orchards, although they’re not trees
With the wassail bowl we’ll drink unto thee

Alternative words

To the Gower Wassail

A-wassail, a-wassail throughout all the town
Our cup it is white and our coffee is brown
Our wassail is not made of good ale or brew
To wassail some bollards it’ll just have to do

Our bollards are made out of some kind of tree
And so my good neighbours we’ll drink unto thee
To be honest we don’t need a reason to drink
But a bollard seems like quite a good one we think

We hope that your bollards remain standing here
So that we may have safe streets when we call next year
And where there’s one bollard we hope there’ll be ten
And the council won’t take them all back out again

It's we poor wassailers all weary and chilly
Please don’t be offended, we’re just being silly
And if we survive for another new year
Perhaps we’ll be back for more bollarding cheer