Stroud has been named the best place to live in Britain, topping a list of 78 locations compiled by The Sunday Times.

Judges praised the farmers’ market, Forest Green Rovers, Selsley Commons, and a steampunk-meets-folklore tradition called the Stroud Wassail held in January.

Wassailing is a toast or celebration which was practiced in Stroud from Anglo-Saxon times until the 1960s, but it's now being gradually revived.

Each year in midwinter the town comes alive with songs, colourful costumes, music, Morris dancing, and historic traditional characters.

Stroud News and Journal: Stroud Wassail // Simon PizzeyStroud Wassail // Simon Pizzey

Wassailing involves a traditional toast: “waes hael” – Be of good health – followed by “drinc hael” – Drink healthily.

A 200-year-old feature of the event is the Broad, a kind of hobby horse made from a pair of horns, fixed to an upturned old broom, a hardboard face with two bottle tops for eyes, and a sack to cover the person inside.

At the last Wassailing celebration in January 2020, Stroud Wassail chairman Robin Burton said: “Our aim is to keep alive an ancient local custom, to bring a bit of fun and enjoyment into one of the darkest and most miserable times of year and, along the way, boost trade and community spirit and help to support local charities.”

Stroud News and Journal: Stroud Wassail // Simon PizzeyStroud Wassail // Simon Pizzey

Stroud Wassail will not take to the streets this year, however, due to the pandemic.

“We’re really sorry to announce that because of the Covid situation we will not be holding our annual Wassail festival on January 9 2021 as we had planned,” the group said in a statement.

“The Wassail now attracts hundreds of visitors to our town, and we and our partner venues can not guarantee a safe environment for so many people. However, we will be back for 2022, and look forward to seeing you all again.”

Stroud News and Journal: Stroud Wassail // Simon PizzeyStroud Wassail // Simon Pizzey