The autumn equinox is always a key point in the calendar, marking the official end of summer and beginning of autumn, when the Harvest Moon appears (this year, on 29 September) which historically, was said to enable farmers to work late into the night, helping them to bring in the crops from the fields.
The equinox coincides with many cultural events, religious observances and customs around the world. For example, the Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is a harvest festival celebrated worldwide in Chinese and Vietnamese communities on the day of the Harvest Moon. In the celtic calendar, the equinox is known as the Mabon, celebrating the second harvest and the start of the winter preparations, respecting the forthcoming darker evenings whilst giving thanks to the sunlight. In the UK, followers of the Wicca religion, druids and pagans gather at both Stonehenge, the 5,000 year old Wiltshire monument, and at Castlerigg, a megalithic stone circle in Cumbria, to watch the sun rise on the day of the equinox.
Further south in Herefordshire, Ross-on-Wye’s Equinox Festival, organised by the town council, celebrates this changing phase of autumn and welcomes everyone to enjoy what is one of the last major outdoor events in the area. This free world music and wellbeing event will be held on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 September at The Bandstand on Caroline Symonds Gardens (HR9 7BX) and will include an arts and crafts market, yoga sessions, the Jitterbug Circus, creative classes for children under the Wye Valley River Festival tent, as well as more world music into the evening.
On Friday afternoon at 3pm, you can enjoy a free yoga and mindful meditation class outside at the Bandstand with yogi Kerry McGrath. The session will lead you through the process of Sun Salutations (or Surya Namaskar) in sequence with traditional Hindi music, allowing you to strengthen your muscles, grounding you in flowing movement and unifying you with the power and flow of the solar cycle. To book, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0198 562373.
The world music programme however is the main feature and people can enjoy top class artists for free on the beautiful riverside. Friday evening welcomes N’famady Kouyaté’s quintet at 7pm with the legendary DJ, Andy Kershaw, who will get you on your feet with his African, Caribbean and Latin dance night.
On the Saturday, local ladies’ wellbeing choir, the Border Belles, will open the show at 1.30pm, samba band, Forest Thump, will lead a procession shortly after that onto the festival field from the Man of Ross pub on Wye Street. Andy Kershaw will return for a happy hour of uplifting music from 6pm with Serbian gypsy jazz quartet, Faith I Branko, performing their lively set ahead of headliners, The Turbans – a magical mix of Eastern European and Middle Eastern musicians guaranteed to uplift you! Throughout the day, you can browse the arts & crafts market, have a drink or bite to eat, or let your children enjoy getting creative at one of the crafts tents onsite.
The festival is completely free to attend, making it accessible to all, and will have local charities and organisations attending with signposting information, plus local street food and drinks traders.
And if you’re looking for a wellbeing break away in the countryside, why not make a week of it and stay on to enjoy the annual Ross-on-Wye Walking Festival the following weekend, 29 September to 1 October. There is a fantastic variety of walks to suit all abilities, including dog-friendly rambles, and with over 300 tickets already sold – and some completely sold out – you need to be quick to snap up the remaining ones!
There is a wide range of walks available including easy photography skills by the riverside, strenuous valley explorations, gentle walks including cream teas or strolls through orchards, exploring steam trains, enjoying perry tastings or family-fun hunting dragons (free walk).
Book your tickets for the Walking Festival here: www.walkinginross.co.uk/festival/programme
Where to stay & other activities in the area: visitrossonwye.com.