Video: Are you aware of any May Day customs observed in Norfolk?

The Weavers Morris dance in the first sunrise of May on Happisburgh cliffs.

PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY The Weavers Morris dance in the first sunrise of May on Happisburgh cliffs. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Thursday, May 1, 2014
9:37 AM

Morris men and women gathered on the clifftop at Happisburgh to “dance in” the May Day dawn this morning.

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The Weavers Morris dance in the first sunrise of May on Happisburgh cliffs. Left,  Ann Brown and Janet Johnson.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYThe Weavers Morris dance in the first sunrise of May on Happisburgh cliffs. Left, Ann Brown and Janet Johnson. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The ceremony, a tradition across England, saw six dancers from North Walsham-based Weavers Morris, plus three musicians, meet to perform on Felicity’s Field at the invitation of its owner, Briony Nierop-Reading, who belongs to the dance group.

Although dry, the dawn was misty and visibility was limited, with no sign of the sun.

Mrs Nierop-Reading, 69, lost her Beach Road home in Happisburgh after the December storm surge.

Perched on the crumbling cliff edge, the bungalow had been due for demolition last month but the winter storm’s ravages left it so close to the brink that it was knocked down before Christmas and Mrs Neirop-Reading now lives in a mobile home nearby.

The Weavers Morris dance in the first sunrise of May on Happisburgh cliffs. 
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYThe Weavers Morris dance in the first sunrise of May on Happisburgh cliffs. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

“A great time was had by all,” she said after the May Day ceremony.

“It was disappointing that there was no sun coming up behind everybody, but they all enjoyed it.

“It’s almost like drawing a line under this particularly awful winter for me, and I can now looking forward to the summer.”

The troupe performed a range of clashing stick dances, including Cuckoo’s Nest, Charging, and Windy Miller, written especially for them by their former squire, David Ballard.

They were watched by two early-rising members of the public, plus EDP photographer Antony Kelly.

After dancing, the troupe enjoyed a 6am traditional English cooked breakfast at the Happisburgh Halt Coffee Shop and Carvery.

The coffee shop is next to the Hill House Inn which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited in 1903.

While there he was inspired to write one of his Sherlock Holmes stories - fittingly named The Dancing Men.

The dancers were: Ann Brown, Janet Johnson, Anita Bush, Mick Wade - who also called the dances - Colin Leslie and Brian Gaudet.

They were accompanied by musicians Bryony Nierop-Reading (tin whistle), Tim Willey (melodeon), and Barry Mobbs (drum), aided by some recorded music.

■ Are you aware of any May Day customs observed in Norfolk? Contact alex.hurrell@archant.co.uk

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