At over 700 feet above sea level the village of Ashmore is the highest in Dorset.
The village is situated on chalk which is permeable and therefore dry, and the village is built around a clay lined dew pond which provided water before pipes were installed. Occasionally, it is said to dry once in twenty years; and it was custom, for the villagers to hold a feast due to this rare occurance. In the 19th Century it was recorded that cakes were baked, and eaten round the margin and in the bed of the pond ; and the local farmers haul out the hundreds of cart-loads of mud which have accumulated on the bottom, and lay them on their land. By a curious coincidence, the pond happened to dry, and the feast was held, in 1887, the Jubilee Year.
In 1956 this ancient custom was revived by Peter Swann as a folk dance festival called the 'Filly Loo'. With the cooperation of the Ashmore Folk Dance Club and guests from Warminster, Westbury and other villages in Dorset and Wiltshire the festival has bee traditionally held on the Friday evening nearest to the Feast of St. John the Baptist or Midsummer's Day - 24th June.
The festivities begin when popular Folk and Celidh Band 'Hambledon Hopstep Band' begins to play, calling the villagers out to take part in the first dance, led by a Green Man. Dancing continues throughout the evening, with the North Dorset childrens dance group 'The Steps in Time' and the White Horse Morris from Wiltshire
By dusk, the celebrations reach their climax with the Abbots Bromley Horn Dance. This is a torchlit procession with six antlered deer-men and four other costumed characters: a Maid Marion, a bowman, a hobby horse and a fool. The procession and dance is accompanied by a haunting solo melody in a minor key which is very atmospheric. The celebration finishes with the torches in the ground around the pond and every reveller joins hands around the large village pond for a final dance.
Discover more Dorset traditions in the book 'Dark Dorset Calendar Customs', by Robert Newland, now available at Amazon.co.uk. Visit the Dark Dorset website, http://www.darkdorset.co.uk or blog http://darkdorset.blogspot.com and open the door to a world of fascinating folklore and legends.