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Burley villagers revive ancient Green Man and Green Lady May Day festivities as a new annual event

THE mythical Green Man and Lady made a welcome return to the New Forest as villagers gathered to revive a tradition not seen in 160 years.

During what’s hoped to be an annual parade at the weekend, Burley residents joined the Green Lady to help her find her Man – also known as Jack in the Green.

According to local folklore, finding the Green Man helps ensure the Forest remains fruitful and harmonious throughout the year.

Accompanied by the New Forest Meddlars Morris dancers, town crier Mac McLaren and master of ceremony Simon Wood joined drummers and a crowd of hundreds to see the Green Lady, played by Kate Collison, raise the Green Man flag at Burley Manor Hotel to signal the start of the search.

A spokesperson for the event said: “In the glorious spring sunshine, it was a moving moment when the great-great-great-granddaughters of the original Jack in the Green, John Bromfield, handed over the foliage crown to the Green Lady.

“Following the same route as was taken in the 1850s and 1860s, the drumming, dancing and flag-waving crowd were a spectacular sight as they paraded through the village to the delight of waiting crowds, all kept safe by the marshals from Fordingbridge Rotary Club.”

Dressed mostly in green to celebrate the day, the parade moved down Burley Manor Drive and along the village’s high street, past the village church, cricket ground and school, ending at Shappen Bottom.

There, Jack in the Green, played by Gary Llewellen, was coaxed out of the woods with more dancing, drumming and a rendition of Summer Is A Coming In before being crowned with foliage.

Organiser Simon Wood said afterwards: “We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the public, and the sheer number of people that came was incredible. Their smiling faces said it all, the costumes were wonderful, and there is definitely a call to make this an annual event. It was a real honour to bring back a tradition so steeped in folklore to the New Forest.

“We’re looking forward to next year already. We would like to thank everyone who supported the day, including the New Forest Marque, Burley Manor Hotel, Fordingbridge Rotary Club, the New Forest Meddlars and of course the good people of Burley and the New Forest for making it such a successful and memorable day.”

The historical Green Man parade was reported on in an 1852 edition of the London Illustrated News. The report stated: “The little village of Burley, in the New Forest, Hampshire, was the scene of a very interesting festivity on Saturday.”

It continued: “It was a day not only to be remembered in the annals of the little Forest locality, in which we were assembled, but also a day of pure joy and happiness to every one who was fortunate enough to witness a May Day in the New Forest.”

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