Traditional summer festival wows crowds

The wicker man goes up in flames at the Beltain Festival at Butser Ancient Farm Pictures: ELEANOR SOPWITH
The wicker man goes up in flames at the Beltain Festival at Butser Ancient Farm Pictures: ELEANOR SOPWITH
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SUMMER has well and truly commenced after a traditional festival set the night sky ablaze.

Butser Ancient Farm near Waterlooville held its Beltain festival on Saturday night.

Performers at the Beltain festival  Pictures: ELEANOR SOPWITH

Performers at the Beltain festival Pictures: ELEANOR SOPWITH

Around 2,000 people turned up for the traditional wicker man burning, to kick off the summer in style.

The farm organised for a 30ft model to be burned, in a tradition done by the farm for more than 30 years.

Butser Ancient Farm’s creative developer, Rachel Bingham, insisted the event was a huge success.

She said: ‘It was amazing and we are so pleased that it went so well.

The wicker man goes up in flames at the Beltain Festival at Butser Ancient Farm Pictures: ELEANOR SOPWITH

The wicker man goes up in flames at the Beltain Festival at Butser Ancient Farm Pictures: ELEANOR SOPWITH

‘The Beltain tradition was actually started by Caesar when he came to Britain.

‘The idea behind it is that the burning of the wicker man was good luck for the summer months and the subsequent harvest.

‘The Romans suggested that people should make a sacrifice at Beltain – of course, we didn’t do that, but instead we had people write messages and put those into the wicker man to be burned with him.’

Rachel says that the experience of watching the wicker man burning in the night sky is like no other.

Crowds at the Beltain festival  Pictures: ELEANOR SOPWITH

Crowds at the Beltain festival Pictures: ELEANOR SOPWITH

She said: ‘This is the first time I have seen something like this and words just can’t quite describe what it is like.

‘The whole thing is a real communal effort with craftsmen, woodworkers and so on joining forces to build it.

‘The Beltain festival was a great experience and watching the wicker man burning in the night sky was actually rather emotional.

‘With the drummers playing and the night settling in, the atmosphere was absolutely stunning – to see the flames rising into the sky is just incredible.

Crowds enjoy the Beltain festival at Butser Ancient Farm    Pictures: ELEANOR SOPWITH

Crowds enjoy the Beltain festival at Butser Ancient Farm Pictures: ELEANOR SOPWITH

‘We had around 2,000 people there and, although the wicker man was 30ft tall, the flames climbed even higher than that.

‘The Beltain festival really was a magical experience.’