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May Day Green Man parade returns to Burley in the New Forest after 160 years





A MAY Day parade which celebrated the New Forest and was last held in the 1860s is being revived this year.

On 11th May crowds will gather at Burley Manor to watch a flag being run up the pole. A parade will then take place through the village to Shappen Bottom where there will be entertainment including maypole dancing, live music and a performance by Morris dancers.

People will be asked to join in to help find the Green Man, a symbol of nature whose appearance ensured “fruitfulness and harmony in the New Forest for the coming year”.

A colourised drawing of Burley May Day celebrations which ran in the June 1852 edition of the Illustrated London News
A colourised drawing of Burley May Day celebrations which ran in the June 1852 edition of the Illustrated London News

Organiser Simon Wood became intrigued by stories of the old tradition of the Green Man. He said: “I think during lockdown there was a spark of interest in old folklore and traditions.

“There was sense of wanting to connect with nature again. I thought it would be nice to resurrect some sort of tradition and then came across the May Day parade in Burley from the 1860s and the legend of the Green Man who was then known as Jack in the Green.

“I started a Facebook page about it and the interest was huge.”

The Green Man Association of the New Forest was formed, which has been busy planning this year’s event.

Simon, who lives in Hythe, said: “It will be a chance for villagers and visitors to all get together. In the old days it was a highlight of the village’s year. The parish council and local authority have been very supportive, as have Burley Manor, New Forest Marque and the New Forest Rotary Club.”

A flag will be raised at Burley Manor hotel at the start of the May Day parade
A flag will be raised at Burley Manor hotel at the start of the May Day parade

The celebrations will start at 11am at Burley Manor where the ‘Green Lady’ will address the crowd. That will be followed by the parade through the village which will be accompanied by drummers, dancers and singers. It will stop in open Forest where the Green Man will be asked to appear.

Simon said: “It is nice to see an old New Forest tradition being revived. After the ceremony is over we are inviting people to enjoy the wonderful hostelries, cafes and restaurants Burley has to offer.”



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