As you grow older you begin to appreciate how difficult it is to provide any continuity in life; from employment, to lifestyle, to environment – all becomes a fluid landscape of change. This is why it is, to me, so remarkable that a day like Oak Apple Day in the Wiltshire village of Great Wishford continues to thrive. Oak Apple Day begins at four am with a clamouring throughout the village to wake up villagers and encourage them all to rise and come outside and assert their ancient rights to raise cattle and collect wood from nearby Grovelly Woods. There follows much processing, dancing and beer drinking. It is rather charming and uplifting to see a community coming together in this way and this years World War 1 theme was embraced with gusto by participants in the annual Oak Apple Procession – the country spirit of earthy, wry humour never more apparent than in the smoking gun on one of the floats. A few years back someone wanted to build houses on the Oak Apple Field and there was uproar. It all serves to remind me that though it may be a slog sometimes to keep up community traditions, if we don’t, we risk losing not only the history behind those traditions but our rights, the village greens and the open spaces that are the living breathing arteries of rural communities. There also is another danger, we also risk lose the communities themselves. The suited and booted politicians in their dirty, over-crowded cities and greedy bankers wedged behind their desks, rarely appreciate that progress isn’t measured in pounds and pence but in the hearts and souls of people who thrive and people blossom with light and space and freedom.
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