Pictures: Crowds turn out to watch the planting of the Penny Hedge in Whitby

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Cries of “out on ye!” filled the upper harbour in Whitby on Wednesday as the annual planting of the Penny Hedge ceremony took place.

Dozens of people lined the water’s edge to watch the planting which has taken place since the year 1159.

An unusually high tide had put the event under threat, with Lol Hodgson, Bailiff of the Manor of Fylingthorpe admitting it was “a close call” as he emptied the water from his wellies, adding "today has been the nearest we've been to not having it."

The event has endured a difficult few years, with attendance numbers dwindling, before a marketing push last year saw the crowds swell once more.

Similar efforts this year meant that the harbour was packed again as spectators attempted to catch a glimpse. Locals have expressed a desire to get school children involved in the event again, as they used to be in the early 2000s.

Hornblower Tim Osborne said: “I think it’s part of Whitby’s tradition and it must be kept going.”

Mr Hodgson added: “I think it’s of the utmost importance that Whitby keeps its traditions.”

The pair have been involved in the ceremony since the 1990s.

The story behind the planting of the hedge concerns three noblemen who were hunting a wild boar, when it was reputed to have sought refuge with a hermit in Eskdaleside.

The three men attacked the hermit and killed him and the building of a hedge cut with a penny knife was undertaken as a punishment.

After the hunted boar apparently managed to escape its pursuers by hiding in a chapel, the noblemen were denied access to the building by a hermit.

In a fit of rage they rode him down with spears, mortally wounding him.

On his death bed, the hermit informed those responsible for his wounding that both they and their ancestors were to build a hedge capable of withstanding three tides as penance.

In recorded history there has only been one year when the hedge could not be built. In 1981 the tide was in at the 9am start time and planting proved impossible.

The choice of planting the hedge on Ascension Eve is done to ensure that the tide is always low come 9am. According to legend “if it be full sea the service shall cease” but public demand determined that it should continue. The original instrument used during the ceremony, thought to be made of cow or ram’s horn, is still used today and is stored in the strong room of Pinkney Grunwell Solicitors in Golden Lion Bank, Whitby.

A Facebook Live video of the planting on the Whitby Gazette page has been viewed more than 2,500 times and was seen from all over the world, including Australia, South Africa and Tenerife.