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Ceremony marks asparagus season

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People dressed as, left to right, St George, Gus the asparagusman, Eve the asparagus fairy at the festival, which is held on St George's Day

People dressed as, left to right, St George, Gus the asparagusman, Eve the asparagus fairy at the festival, which is held on St George's Day

PA

Morris dancers from the National Trust's only pub, The Fleece Inn at Bretforton in Worcestershire's Vale of Evesham, took part

Morris dancers from the National Trust's only pub, The Fleece Inn at Bretforton in Worcestershire's Vale of Evesham, took part

PA

During the Great English Asparagus Run ceremony, a vicar blessed the humble vegetable

During the Great English Asparagus Run ceremony, a vicar blessed the humble vegetable

PA

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People dressed as, left to right, St George, Gus the asparagusman, Eve the asparagus fairy at the festival, which is held on St George's Day

The first cut of the season's asparagus has been delivered to shops in an eccentric ceremony in the heart of England.

The Great English Asparagus Run witnessed a "round of Gras" tied in willow twine being sent off to the dinner table.

The quirky ceremony, in which a local vicar blessed the humble vegetable, is always held on St George's Day.

This year the send-off was delivered by local morris dancers from the National Trust's only pub, The Fleece Inn at Bretforton in Worcestershire's Vale of Evesham.

The round was driven away in a top-down Morgan classic car and across the country to the luxury London department store Fortnum & Mason Piccadilly, where it will feature on a seasonal menu.

The ceremony marks the start of the eight-week UK growing season and kicked off the county's Great British Asparagus Festival.

Angela Tidmarsh, organiser, said: "We're here to celebrate everything good and great about Britain."

The eye-catching event saw a centrepiece giant round of asparagus appear in the pub's courtyard, while there was a table piled high with asparagus soap shaped like the vegetable and jars of asparagus jam to sample.

The event's reputation for eccentricity continued with appearances by Gus the Asparagusman, Eve the Asparagus Fairy, and fortune-telling 'asparamancer' Jemima Packington, who uses asparagus sticks to divine people's futures.

The roots of the ceremony go back in history but it was given a modern revival a few years ago when growers started auctioning off the first rounds of asparagus to raise money for a local brass band. Mrs Tidmarsh said: "It's an old vegetable going back to Roman times, and the Vale of Evesham grows the best in the country."

PA Media