VOLUNTEERS are being sought to plant a new community orchard in south Oxford after recent attempts were blighted by flooding.

Volunteers are hopeful that the ground at Hogacre Common Eco Park, off Whitehouse Road, will be clear for the event at 1pm on Sunday, January 20.

Two-thirds of the orchard trees have been planted across the 11-acre site but further plantings were thwarted by the November floods, and fruit trees and shrubs still need planting, said organiser Ben Haydon.

Volunteers will be invited to join a “wassail” at the orchard when the sun sets that day.

Mr Haydon said: “Wassailing is a traditional orchard blessing carried out near to the ‘old twelvey night’ of January 17 to ensure the health and fruitfulness of the orchard. The trees are given warmed cider to drink, as are the Wassailers themselves, and cider-soaked toast is hung in the trees to ward off evil spirits.

“The floods set us back, but now in bleak midwinter we’re asking everyone to come together again to help plant the remaining trees and to celebrate its completion with a warming fire and mulled apple juice to warm everyone up after an afternoon’s digging.”