Summer was welcomed in spectacular style on Saturday at Butser Ancient Farm, just south of Petersfield, at their annual Beltain Festival, back after two years of absence.

As a revival of an ancient Celtic celebration to celebrate the start of summer, the festival saw over 2500 festival goers gather with re-enactments, ancient crafts, live music and workshops, before witnessing the burning of the 35ft Wickerman at dusk.

Hampshire Chronicle: Butser Ancient Farm Beltain Festival, photo: Eleanor Sopwith

There was a festival atmosphere at the event with axe-throwing, warrior training, Saxon fighting, sea shanty singing and Morris dancing.

The Wickerman, constructed by a team of woodsmen, volunteers and artists, had an Iron Age warrior theme in honour of the 50th anniversary of Butser Ancient Farm which started in 1972 as a research site exploring Iron Age life and farming through experimental archaeology. Since then it has expanded to cover Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon life but is perhaps most famous for its Iron Age roundhouses and the contribution that the site has made to the understanding of Iron Age life.

Hampshire Chronicle: Butser Ancient Farm Beltain Festival, photo: Harvey Mills

The design changes each year and is kept a top secret to the day of the festival. Throughout the festival the figure is adorned by the wishes of festival goers, tied to the wicker frame, which are sent out into the world as the Wickerman burns, a beacon beckoning the sun's warmth for the year ahead.

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Rachel Bingham, Butser Ancient Farm creative developer, said: “Beltain is the biggest fundraising event of the year for Butser Ancient Farm, a community interest company focussed on archaeological research and education, which welcomes visitors, students and school groups throughout the year. The festival was certainly a very memorable way to celebrate the bank holiday weekend and will support many more projects and educational activities at the farm in the coming year as they recover from the Covid pandemic.”

Hampshire Chronicle: Butser Ancient Farm Beltain Festival, photo: Harvey Mills

For more information about Butser Ancient Farm and their upcoming events, workshops and projects for their 50th anniversary year, visit:

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