The villagers of Whalton gear up for the weekend of midsummer celebrations

Baal burning in the village of Whalton, 1902. The picture was taken by Sir Benjamin Stone.

Making the giant corn wagon is an old Midsummer tradition and means bringing the harvest home.

It also marks the start of a weekend of events in the village of Whalton, culminating in the ‘Baal Burning’ ceremony in three days.

Whalton is the only village to have maintained the Midsummer tradition of bale burning since 1903. It takes place every year on the 4th of July (Midsummer according to the ‘old’ calendar) in the village green near the Beresford Arms Hotel.

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Whalton’s core baby in 1902. Picture taken by Sir Benjamin Stone.

Traditionally, children danced around the fire, culminating in the core baby being thrown onto it and burned. That doesn’t happen anymore and these days it’s just a small community event with the crowd dancing to music accompanied by morris dancers. This takes place on Monday evenings from 18:00 to 21:00.

This afternoon (Friday) at 2pm, local farmer Richard Grix, who is vice chair of the parish hall, will put the finishing touches on the core baby.

Tomorrow and Sunday there will be a special screening of a short film called Homecoming made in 2016 by artist Faye Claridge in the Village Hall, documenting the story behind the creation of a special giant core baby art installation that was eventually brought to Whalton.

The 15-foot figure was originally created by Faye as part of a Birmingham Library project to commemorate the work of Victorian photographer Sir Benjamin Stone, who was also the city’s mayor. One of the photographs taken during his travels in 1902 showed the annual core baby at Whalton Village. This provided the inspiration for Faye’s creation.

The giant core baby was installed in 2016.

After being exhibited in Birmingham, the giant figure was transported to Whalton in 2016 for a month-long exhibition and its ‘homecoming’ is documented on film.

And although the giant figure is no longer in Whalton, the village builds its own smaller version every year.

Alongside the short film, other photographs taken by Sir Benjamin during his visits to Whalton in 1902 and 1903 are on view as part of a larger collection of old pictures on display in the Parish Hall.

Admission is free and is part of a two-day summer art fair at the hall, running tomorrow and Sunday from 10:30am to 4:00pm, where 22 local artists and makers will be showcasing and selling their creations. One of the creators is fiber artist Anna Turnbull of Biteabout Arts in Northumberland, who creates sculptures and baskets from locally grown willow.

Admission to these events in the parish hall is free.

The village also hosts its annual Open Garden at Moore House (opposite the Village Hall) on Sundays between 2pm and 5pm as part of the National Garden Scheme. The 6 acre gardens were designed by Sean Murray, winner of the BBC/RHS Great Chelsea Garden Challenge.

Admission is £5 for adults and high tea is available on site.

On Monday, the festivities will take place between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

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