A bumper crop of mistletoe and holly is attracting hundreds of buyers to a series of annual auctions in Worcestershire. Zoe Chamberlain reports
A sprinkling of snow fell on the rows of holly wreathes and bunches of mistletoe as the first in a series of auctions kicked off in Tenbury Wells this week.
The sales have taken place in this pretty Worcestershire town for more than 100 years and this year sellers were enjoying a bumper crop.
Buyers from as far afield as Scotland and Ireland attended because this is the best region to grow mistletoe.
It is rare to find large quantities outside Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Somerset.
Among those selling wreathes were the Bufton family.
For the last 10 years, mother and daughter have been making wreaths to sell at the auction as a way of generating extra income for Christmas.
At their peak they were making 2,000 in the garage of their home in Brimfield, near Ludlow.
This year they’ve made 500, working long hours in the week running up to the auction to ensure the wreaths stay fresh for Christmas.
Pauline Bufton said: “My husband is a country man. He’s always put holly in the garden.
‘‘One year my niece started making wreaths. My daughter and I thought it would be a great way to make a bit of extra cash for the Christmas period.
‘‘I have eight grandchildren so it does get expensive. The first year we made around 200 and it’s escalated since then.
“We make the traditional wreaths with holly, variegated leaves and fresh berries.”
Mistletoe is big business in Tenbury – in fact the place as been dubbed England’s Mistletoe Town.
There are three auctions – one on the last Tuesday in November and two on the first Tuesdays in December – together with a mistletoe festival this weekend.
Country couples admire the mistletoe in tweeds, hats and wellies, young lads in trainers and caps price up the holly and old men, scruffy and smoking, watch and wait, not seeming to feel the cold despite wearing trainers and clothes held together by string.
Some are here to sell the mistletoe from their apple orchards, some are here to buy holly to make wreaths to sell in their farm shops, others come to buy lorry loads of mistletoe to sell online and to supermarket chains.
Then all of a sudden the auction starts, with nothing more than a man walking round the field ringing an old school bell, and suddenly everyone is busy and excited.
Auctioneer Nick Champion jostles people along the lots with a microphone earpiece and a stick to point to bidders.
A colleague walks behind him, holding up each of the wares.
Mistletoe is sold in bundles costing about £12 to £18, boughs are sold on how pretty they look and wreaths in groups of 15 to 25.
Bundles of mistletoe weigh about 20 to 30lbs and there are about 25 bundles in each row.
The rows, intermingled with holly, stretch the length of the field, as far as the eye can see.
Some bidders bring luggage scales to weigh the mistletoe but most are happy to pay for the quality and the way it looks.
Bidding starts at about £2 a wreath but in no time some are sold for £7 each.
Janet Bud from Malvern has seen the price go up in the last few years.
She said: “The wreaths used to sell for around £1.80 a time but now they fetch more like £5 each. We sell Christmas trees so we come here to buy wreaths and mistletoe to sell alongside the trees.
“My husband Graham has been selling Christmas trees for over 30 years with his father.”
For more details on the Mistletoe Festival visit www.tenbury-mistletoe-festival.co.uk