AS we welcome the return of summer this weekend, two Wirral woman are looking forward to celebrating what they hope will be the borough’s biggest Summer Solstice Fair to date.

Each year Hedgewitch Hollow – a Birkenhead-based community group run by Sarah Murphy and Mel Carlile – celebrates the solstice at Wirral Country Park with more than 100 Pagans from across Britain.

Now in its third year, the duo have organised a festival complete with earth healing mediation, chanting, singing and ritual Druid drumming.

“We started the event three years ago after our community group decided that there were no Pagan themed events in Wirral or Liverpool, yet there was a demand for them,” explained Mel.

“We advertised a small, informal barbecue at Wirral Country Park and had people from as far as Yorkshire, Winsford and Bolton come to join us.

“After thinking we would maybe get 12 of us, we trebled that number. We did the same the following year and had close to 100 people.”

The free event, which runs from noon on June 21 right into the evening, will feature activities for all the ages and will feature a closing ceremony to celebrate the solstice at 7pm, followed by an informal evening of drumming, chanting and singing.”

“Due to the size of last year’s event, we have expanded the event and hired a health and safety team, security and first aid staff,” added Mel.

Pagans have had a foothold on Wirral for centuries with settlers from the Celts, Anglo Saxons and Vikings shaping the area before the Romans settled and converted the area to Christianity.

Witches are also said to have played a huge part in shaping Wirral’s history with the famed “King of the Witches” Alex Sanders born in Moon Street, Birkenhead who, along with Gerald Gardner, was responsible for Wicca being brought to the public throughout the 1950s and 60s.

Mel added: “Local historian Gavin Chappell has written about the links between Wirral, especially the country park are and old Pagan traditions, so it only seems fitting to keep our events there.”

Hedgewitch Hollow, formed in 2011, meets regularly at the Stork Hotel for talks and workshops varying in topics from local history and conservation to Witchcraft, Pagan and Druid practices.

“We have upwards of 100 members from across Cheshire Merseyside, Lancashire and North Wales,” said Mel.

“We aim to provide a place for Pagans to meet, share knowledge, feel safe and have a sense of community.

“We also provide equal opportunity talks to schools, colleges and employers regarding Paganism and how the religion affects the workplace and educational environments as well as employees, employers, students and teachers.”

The Summer Solstice Fair takes place at Wirral Country Park on Saturday.