Crowd gathers for ancient Whitby custom of Penny Hedge

A SMALLER crowd than usual witnessed the annual planting of the Penny Hedge – a Whitby tradition which dates back to the 12th Century.

About 20 tourists and locals gathered along the harbourside on Wednesday morning to watch Lol Hodgson and Tim Osborne construct the pliable hazel hedge ahead of the incoming tide.

Mr Osborne, who sounded a horn once the task was completed, said this was the seventh year he had taken part.

He said: "I only came in as a stand-in one year and I am part of the furniture now.

"It's important these traditions are upheld and continue. Usually there are a lot more people here – maybe the weather put them off."

He added he felt the hedge would survive the three tides dictated by tradition.

After the horn was sounded, Mr Hodgson, the current bailiff of the Manor of Fyling, shouted "out on ye" three times which culminated in a round of applause from the crowd.

He said the morning's tide had risen quicker than expected. He said: "Tides vary but we managed to finish the job."

Whitby's mayor, Coun Steve Smith, said: "It's excellent, a very traditional ceremony and well received by the townsfolk and visitors.

"It marks the town's historic past and it's good to keep these traditions alive for future generations.

"It's what makes the town so special."

Former mayor and honorary citizen of Whitby, Dorothy Clegg, said the hedge was nearly lost in the 1920s.

She said: "It is ruled by the moon and tides but it should be okay this year. It's a fixture in the calendar in Whitby and part of our heritage."