Summer was welcomed in spectacular style on Saturday at Butser Ancient Farm, just south of Petersfield in Hampshire at their annual Beltain Festival. As a revival of an ancient Celtic celebration to mark the start of summer, the sell-out festival saw over 2000 festival goers 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.
Despite the chillier bank-holiday temperatures, there was a fantastic festival atmosphere at the event with axe-throwing, warrior training, Celtic harp music, sea shanty singing and Morris dancing to name just a few of the activities on offer, spread around the farm’s reconstructed ancient buildings.
The Wickerman, constructed by a team of woodsmen, volunteers and artists since February, this year had a hint of the Jedi in honour of Star Wars day and ‘May the 4th be with you’ with a billowing black cloak framing his impressive figure! The design changes each year and is kept a top secret till the day of the festival, but this year’s figure certainly didn’t disappoint! Throughout the festival 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, a community interest company focussed on archaeological research and education, which welcomes visitors, students and school groups throughout the year. The festival was certainly a very memorable way to celebrate the bank holiday weekend and will support many more projects and educational activities at the farm in the coming year. www.butserancientfarm.co.uk