There are three auction days - at present they are the final Tuesday in November and the following two Tuesdays in December.
Dates for 2013
Auction: Tues 26th Nov 10.00am
Festival Procession, ceremonies & service:
Pictures of Teme Street and The Pump Room in Tenbury from 'Virtual Shropshire'
The ancient market town of Tenbury Wells, on the River Teme is well worth a visit.
The sales are held just on the outskirts of the northern side, at the business park. Keep on the main road through the pretty old town and you will see the' Holly Sales' or 'Mistletoe Sales' signposted on the left as you go up the hill. There's plenty of parking space - and even a tractor on hand to pull you out if you get bogged down in mud or snow!
If you'd like to buy one of the large bundles of mistletoe or holly, you must register at the 'Office Van', a simple form which gives you a buyer number. Or, you could do this in advance of the visit at the Auctioneer's website (link above). You don't have to use it!
The bundles are sold singly, but the buyer of the first in a group from one farmer will get the option to buy any or all of that group at the same price if he wishes. One buyer might take just one bundle or he may take all eight or twelve. But don't worry - there are hundreds of bundles for sale!
Selling sets of made-up wreaths in the marquee -
auctioneer Nick Champion is on the right.
Each auction begins at 10.00am sharp, when the Auctioneer sounds his bell ! It starts in the white marquee with sales of made-up Yule wreaths, rings and crosses
If you're a buyer, it's as well to get there before time to get a good look. Glimpse into the tent, then walk along the many long rows of bundles laid out with much care outside.
Each is tied or laid on top of sacks, labelled with the suppliers details and numbered - make a note or two about anything that particularly catches your eye. They are wonderfully fresh and most are laden with berries. The wreaths in the marquee are not sold singly of course - the price bid is the price for one of a group - but you must buy all items in that set, say ten.
The sale goes outside when the wreaths are all sold, and the Auctioneer moves down the rows of mistletoe and holly, followed closely by crowds of would be customers. The whole sale is finished by lunch-time!
Locally grown Christmas trees of many sizes and varieties are for sale too, but again you'll need to buy the whole small group!
Once you have bid for your mistletoe or holly, most people take it away and put it aside quite quickly. The most expensive and sought after holly is the gold and silver variegated. With mistletoe, it's the least woody bunches that are most popular. Muddypond here wanted a heavy, woody bunch - she likes to make wands!
How fresh would you like it?
Years of expertise go into the growing, harvesting and choosing of the greenery.
On site, next to the 'Office' there's a van selling nice burgers, currant buns and good, hot tea or coffee - very welcome after a long morning at the auctions in the cold! . Near to this are some portable loos. It's impossible to buy just a sprig of mistletoe - Muddypond knew that - but I do think she might've got a bit carried away! (See below! Mopsy - loaded and ready for home).
Good old 'Mopsy' loaded beyond her expectations and ready for home.
There are more pictures of our Mistletoe auction spree on my Diaryblog entry for December 19th 2011 here.
Tenbury is also the setting for a fine Mistletoe Festival, held on National Mistletoe Day - the first Saturday in December every year. To quote from their website - link here ...
'Tenbury's Mistletoe Festival began in 2004, when the traditional Mistletoe Auctions, held in the town for over 100 years, seemed threatened with closure. Local people were determined Tenbury's Mistletoe legacy would continue, and so the Festival was born.'
Here too you can find links to The Mistletoe Foundation, and read about their ceremonies.
Now, that festival will be a treat to see - a treat that this hedgerow fae has promised herself for next winter - or perhaps the one after?
My mischievous mistletoe men are adapted from 'Floral Fairies - The Mistletoes' Pranks' by Gertrude Robinson. Ill F.A.Carter 1913
You will find plenty of folklore, customs and magick relating to the Mistletoe plant here on my website.