GREY skies and rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the Original Welsh Border Morris dancers, as they made their traditional Christmas tour of Worcestershire.

The tour started with breakfast at the Fox Inn at Wichenford, after which the morris men travelled to White Ladies Aston.

There they were greeted by villagers who plied them with mince pies and mulled wine in what has become a regular feature of the tour.

Then it was off to Pershore, where as well as dancing they enjoyed a refreshing drink at the Angel Inn.

Next stop was Upton, and then came the only hitch of the day.

The Upton dance should have been followed by a visit to the Three Kings at Hanley Castle, but floodwater on the road out of Upton ruled that out and they had to travel up the other side off the river to their next stop in Worcester.

Here they entertained the bustling crowds of pre-Christmas shoppers outside the Guildhall with their traditional English dances, before returning to the Fox.

Founder member John Barker said the tour, now in its 39th year, began when members of Worcester’s Faithful City Morris Men and the Silurian Morris Men of Ledbury met to preserve the old dances of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. “Now I think it’s the largest morris side in the world,” he said.

“And as it’s our 40th year next year, we should try to get that officially confirmed by the Guiness Book of Records.”

Some 75 dancers and musicians took part in this year's tour.

Many of them were local, but some having travelled form as far away as Devon and Cornwall to take part.

Explaining the tradition of wearing black facepaint, morris dancer Christopher Mulvey, from the Silurian Border Morrismen, said it was used as a disguise and was nothing to do with race.

“The idea was, particularly for the Silurians, they would dance in winter when there was little work around.

“Essentially they danced to supplement their income and went from village to village, but because begging laws were quite strict if anyone was asked if they knew who the dancers were they could genuinely say they had no idea because they had black faces.”