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South Downs Wickerman returns after two-year absence

South Downs Wickerman returns after two-year absence

Summer was welcomed in spectacular style at Butser Ancient Farm, just south of Petersfield, at their annual Beltain Festival, back with a bang after two years of absence.

As a revival of an ancient Celtic celebration to celebrate the start of summer, the festival saw over 2,500 people gather to eat, drink and make merry with re-enactments, ancient crafts, live music and workshops, before witnessing the burning of the 35ft Wickerman at dusk.

There was a fantastic festival atmosphere at the event with axe-throwing, warrior training, Saxon fighting, sea shanty singing and Morris dancing to name just a few of the activities on offer.

The Wickerman, constructed by a team of woodsmen, volunteers and artists since February, had an Iron Age Warrior theme on honour of the 50th anniversary of Butser Ancient Farm, which started in 1972 as a research site exploring Iron Age life and farming through experimental archaeology.

Since then it has expanded to cover Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon life but is perhaps most famous for its Iron Age roundhouses and the contribution that the site has made to the understanding of Iron Age life.

The design changes each year and is kept a top secret until the day of the festival, but this year’s figure certainly didn’t disappoint! Throughout the event the figure is adorned by the wishes of festival goers, tied to the wicker frame, which are sent out into the world as the Wickerman burns, a beacon beckoning the sun’s warmth for the year ahead.

Beltain is the biggest fundraising event of the year for Butser Ancient Farm. The event will support many more projects and educational activities at the farm in the coming year as they recover from the Covid pandemic.

For more information about Butser Ancient Farm and their upcoming events, workshops and projects for their 50th anniversary year head to www.butserancientfarm.co.uk