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A Perfect Summer Day in Grasmere.

A few weeks ago we had a little taste of  what Summer should be like in Grasmere.

Rowing Boats Grasmere

A certain family member had been wanting to go out on a rowing boat on Grasmere for ages and I had kept saying it was too cold.

Ready to go, Boats at Grasmere

Trust me to land myself without an excuse when I woke to the most beautiful sunny morning and went into the kitchen announcing “isn’t it warm today”. That was it, rowing boat day had arrived!

Grasmere Reflections

To be honest I had a reason to go out on the lake myself, but once it was agreed that I was taking photos and not rowing I really started enjoying myself.

Helm Crag Grasmere from the Lake

It was a stunning day weather wise and still early so not many folk about.

Rounding the island Grasmere

We headed out to the Island in the centre of the mere. This got me thinking as we got nearer and nearer, how much it had got overgrown. I can’t remember the last time I saw the farmer taking sheep across to graze on a rowing boat. It used to be a regular occurrence. It was also common for flocks of sheep to be brought down Stock Lane in the centre of the village. Quite often the cry of “sheep!” prompted us to run and close our shop doors, in case they decided to pay a visit. I never had sheep in the shop but I did once have a flock tramp through the house when someone who shall remain nameless left the front gate and front door open!. A very “sheepish” (sorry couldn’t resist that) farmer appeared at the door with a box of chocolates to apologise.

Canoe on Grasmere

A few more lake users were appearing so we headed over to have a look at the new Waterside Hotel. Formerly the Prince of Wales it is due to open this Summer.

Waterside Hotel Grasmere

I had been desperate to see what it looked like from the water, and this was the perfect view.

Waterside Hotel

It was good to see what was happening from a different angle.

Balcony Waterside Hotel

There will be some lovely views from these windows. Time was moving on so we went round by the Waterside Boathouse and rowed to the top of the lake.

Waterside Hotel Boathouse

It was a quick row to the top of the lake, and by now the sun was really shining.

Rowing on Grasmere

Walkers were appearing on the walk round the shore.

Lake Shore Walk Grasmere

The views are stunning in every direction from the lake, it really is the most perfect place to take in the surroundings.

Looking down the lake

It looked as though lots of people were starting to get the same idea as us, and more boats were appearing as we headed back to Faeryland where we had started from.

Rowing on Grasmere

Nesting on the bank just before we got back to the landing stage were some swans, we just had time to watch them enjoying the sun.

Swans Grasmere

Then just before we docked we spotted a Heron in the shallows.

Grasmere Heron

Feeling guilty that I hadn’t done a single bit of rowing, I felt it only right to offer refreshments. A pot of Faeryland’s own blend tea.

Tea at Faeryland Grasmere

So a perfect sunny day in Grasmere. No need to open an umbrella. Well not for the usual reasons anyway!

A perfect day for rowing on Grasmere





Olympic Torch Relay Grasmere

Who would have thought that the Olympic Torch would pass through the centre of Grasmere.

Waiting for the torch Grasmere

The day before had been the most beautiful sunny day, however  we woke to torrential rain. But all was not lost, although it was still drizzling when the torch arrived it had eased off a lot.

Met police bikes Grasmere

The torch arrived just as everyone was locking up shop for the day, we knew it had arrived by the sound of drumming coming from the park. Grasmere School were performing and apparently gave the torch a rousing welcome. We all dashed on to the pavement to watch.

Olympic bus

A rather strange parade of vehicles for the streets of Grasmere then appeared. First came the CocaCola one, with music blaring. Heavens only knows what the Herdwick sheep in the fields were thinking!

CocaCola vehicle

Next up we came face to face with David Beckham, not something I thought I would ever say in this blog!

David Beckham

Lloyds Bank was next. Presumably these are all the sponsors of the Olympics.

More Relay vehicles

It was a shame that none of the torch bearers were actually from Grasmere, would have been lovely to see one of our own carrying the flame.

Torch Bearer Grasmere

However I have to say the bearer that we saw was very nice and chatty to everyone waiting.

Olympic torch outside Gingerbread Shop

And then torch lit, the bearer ran through the centre of the village

Here comes the flame

and was past before we knew it.

There it goes

Everyone remarked how brilliant it was that the flame had actually come through the centre of Grasmere and not just along the main road. After another handover the flame proceeded to Ambleside by open top bus, then by Lake steamer to Bowness on Windermere for an evening of entertainment.  The rain did little to dampen spirits and it was great to feel part of the London 2012 Olympics in this little part of the British Isles.

Wenlock waves goodbye to Grasmere

Grasmere Celebrates the Diamond Jubilee

I always feel proud of Grasmere, but never more so than this morning. On my early morning walk there was a sign saying “use side entrance of church” so I did!.

Jubilee Party St Oswald’s Church

In all the years I have been here, I have never seen such a sight. The interior of St Oswald’s Church was all decked out for a Jubilee Party.

Jubilee at St Oswald’s Grasmere

The lucky children of Grasmere School were having a “street party” inside the church. Something they would no doubt remember for a long time. Each child’s name was made into a crown, and the scene was set.

Let’s Celebrate

That got me thinking. Why not photograph more of the businesses that had made an effort for the Jubilee. So here we go. All credit to the following for making things so nice for our visitors.

Potted Out Cafe Grasmere

Potted Out Cafe had the flags flying over their door, and also these displays in their plant pots. Well they are part of the Garden Centre after all!

National Trust Information Centre

All Red, White and Blue in the Information Centre Window.

Jubilee Gingerbread Shop

I think Sarah Nelson would have been very proud of the display the present family members had made of the Gingerbread Shop.

Gingerbread Shop Celebrates

Next up, The Wordsworth Hotel.

Wordsworth Hotel Grasmere

Nearly got lead astray at this point as I could see everyone in the Hotel restaurant tucking into their breakfasts, which looked delicious!

Baldry’s Tearoom Grasmere

Luckily Baldry’s Tearoom was shut, as they have the most yummy cakes you can imagine.

Heidi’s Grasmere

The flags were flying at Heidi’s Cafe. A great place to stock up on a packed lunch for your walk.

Red Lion Hotel Grasmere

One of the oldest buildings in Grasmere. The Red Lion Hotel.

Attic Shop Grasmere

And the newest shop, just opened in a new home. Attic, full of wonderful gifts.

Heaton Cooper Studio Grasmere

Loved the Heaton Cooper Studio window. Obviously making the most of the fact that we also have the Olympic Torch passing through the village as well.

Herdy Shop Grasmere

Everyone’s favourite the totally cute Herdy shop.

Beck Allans

A great base in the centre of the village. Beck Allans holiday cottages and Bed and Breakfast.

The Storytellers Garden Grasmere

I suppose it was inevitable that the Storyteller Laureate of Great Britain would have the flags flying.

Story Teller Laureate Taffy Thomas

And guess what! Storyteller Taffy was at home. Full of tales of the events he was holding over the Jubilee holiday. In his newly spruced up garden, and as part of the Tales and Trails season, which take in walks to Helm Crag and Rydal Water.

Jubilee fairy

He was also telling me about an event he is appearing at, at the newly re-opened Allan Bank. An evening of fairy stories and music for mid summer. Sounded great.

Grasmere Church

So there you have it. A little insight into Grasmere life. With events planned all over the 4 day holiday, it’s a great place to be. Hog roast, sports, concerts in the church and a beautifully decorated village. What more could you ask.

Finally, come rain or shine, I spotted these in an outdoor shop in the centre of the village. You too can be patriotic come rain or shine!

British Wellys

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee 2012

Grasmere Village Jubilee

Grasmere Rushbearing 2011

Living in the Lake District you do quite often get slightly fed up with the weather. Ok we all say “well you wouldn’t have the lakes if you didn’t have the rain” but sometimes it would be nice to wake up, pull back the curtains and see the sun shining!.

Rushbearing Maidens 2011

Grasmere Rushbearing is one such day. So much work goes into the preparation for this traditional Lakeland event that it’s fingers crossed all round for fine weather.

Preparing the bearings

So guess what ? yet again this year it was raining. For the past few days the little tractor had been chugging backwards and forwards to the church full of rushes from the lake side. Everyone carried on getting ready, with more than a few glimpses towards the sky.

Here they come

Then as so often happens, right at the last minute, the skies cleared.

Rushbearing Maidens

There were still a few spectators balancing umbrellas but there was nothing like the torrential downpour that had started the day.

Taffy Thomas Storyteller Laureate

The great thing about Rushbearing is that everyone takes part. Taffy Thomas who is the current Storyteller Laureate had just finished doing an event in the storytellers garden and was watching the procession while clutching that other Grasmere tradition Grasmere gingerbread!

Happy Villagers

With being a busy tourist village, during the summer months it’s a case of heads down and on with work, but on this day we all come out and celebrate. Being in the tourist industry we tend to do a reverse hibernation. Don’t see anyone in the summer as so busy working, then come winter we all appear and have time to catch up.

Local Hotelier Josie.

One new adidtion to Rushbearing was spotted in the National Trust Information Centre. They have produced a greetings card and postcard of the Rushbearing painting by Frank Bramley RA which although purchased by public subscription by the villagers of Grasmere is in the care of National Trust.

Rushbearing by Frank Bramley RA

Frank Bramley married Katherine Graham from Huntingstile Grasmere in 1891, hence his link with the village. He was a member of the Newlyn School of Artists. Newlyn was a small fishing village in Cornwall where the light was considered particularly good for painting outdoors. He started the Rushbearing painting in about 1900 and it took him four years to complete. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1905. The painting is seldom seen, however I do hear that there may be plans to let the public view it during next year’s Rushbearing.

Traditional Bearings

The Rushbearing procession winds it’s way round the village with a brief stop at Moss Parrock before heading back to St. Oswald’s Church. I don’t think many people realise just how heavy some of these bearings can be.

Young villagers at Rushbearing

It is great to see such an ancient tradition being celebrated each year and to see the younger children enjoying themselves as much as their parents and grandparents did in the past. For more information about the history of Rushbearing please see the post I did earlier in this blog.

Grasmere Rushbearing 2011

Late Evening Loughrigg Fell

A busy day, but still a beautiful evening despite light fading fast. Ok it’s a bit of a cheat but a quick drive up Red Bank road from Grasmere towards Elterwater takes you to a very conveniently placed pull in just before High Close YHA.

Looking down on Grasmere

From there it’s just a quick walk across Loughrigg Fell to get some great views of Grasmere. Sometimes it’s nice just to get out for half an hour of fresh air.

Loughrigg towards Dunmail Raise

The sun was setting and some of the Vale of Grasmere was already in darkness, other bits of the fell highlighted by the last rays of the sun. As I was walking along I was reminded of a couple I met who had been visiting during the Foot and Mouth crisis of 2001. The village was more or less deserted, no one was travelling to the countryside, and if they were then the fells were out of bounds.

Late evening Loughrigg Fell

I had asked them how they were enjoying their holiday, expecting the usual complaint about not being able to go out walking. To my surprise they said they were having the best time ever!. When I spoke to them further they said that every time they visited the Lake District they felt guilty if they didn’t  go out walking every day. On this visit they couldn’t so were having a lovely time just pottering about the villages, stopping for a cup of tea and taking in the views around them.

Sunlight towards Rydal

In a way it’s a bit like that when you live here. You feel you really should get out in the evening and make the most of the day. It took me a long time to realise that you don’t have to plan a major expedition to make the most of where you live. There is nothing wrong with “cheating” a bit and driving somewhere and just having a short walk.

Last light over Grasmere

Taking half an hour out just to sit with a flask of coffee and watch the sun go down is good for the soul. Major walks can wait for another day.

Langdale Pikes in the distance

We live in a beautiful part of the country, the main thing is to appreciate it!

World Famous Grasmere Sports

One of the highlights of the Grasmere calendar is the world famous Grasmere Sports.

Senior Guide race Grasmere Sports

Set in a natural amphitheatre the surroundings for Grasmere sports are awe inspiring and the fells provide an ideal setting for fell racing and hound trails.

Grasmere Sports Field.

Earliest photos of the sports are by William Baldry who was also the village schoolmaster. He became the official photographer for the sports committee in 1872 and remained so for 20years. This is all the more amazing when you realise the first known photograph of the Lake District was taken by a customs officer, John Marsden in 1852 only 20 years before.

Looking down on Grasmere Sports field from Butter Crags.

Apart from records of horse racing in the early 17th Century first records of sports in Grasmere occur in 1852. These took place on the Moss. Next records are 1865 where in conjunction with the annual sheep fair they were held on Hudson’s Field which is near the Wordsworth Hotel (formerly the Rothay Hotel). The sports then moved to Pavement End to a field still known as “the old sports field”. Next Broadgate meadow was used and finally in 1919 the “shed field” which is the current home of the sports was used for the first time.

Old family photo of Grasmere Sports

The arrival of “Lordy” the late Earl of Lonsdale, a great sportsman and keen wrestler was a real spectacle. The Earl’s house party would travel from Lowther Estate in a fleet of bright yellow and black Rolls Royce across to Ullswater, over Kirkstone Pass and on to the sports field parking near the grandstand. It was a great social occasion as well as a sporting event. Nowadays it is not just Westmorland folk who come to enjoy the event but people from all over the world, some to watch, some to compete.

Fun in all weathers.

Grasmere folk optimistically say the weather is “allus fine for sports” however come rain or shine it still carries on.

Fell running in fine weather.

The highlight of Grasmere Sports has to be the Senior Guide Race. This is an event that has to be seen to be believed. From the sports field across the road, up Brackenfell to the summit of Butter Crags and back down in 12mins. 21.6 seconds. No wonder Joss Naylor tried to urge the organisers of the 2012 Olympics to include it. When the first runner appears back in the field the band play “Hail the conquering hero”, well deserved.

Wet weather fell racing.

The Guide race was first introduced in 1868. The current record was set by Fred Reeves in 1978 and Rob Jebb came very close in 2008 missing it by 10 seconds. The atmosphere in the sports field was electric. Anyone who beats the record will get £500 pounds from Pete Bland but so far his money is safe.

Reaching the summit.

One can only have total respect for these athletes. I have never been able to make my mind up whether it is best to watch from the field where a swarm of little ants thunder up the fell, or at the top to cheer everyone on.

Off they go. Start of the Guide race.

Another popular event is the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling. From time immemorial Grasmere lads had “wrestling bouts” annually after the Rushbearing.

Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling.

To start the competitors must “tek hod” by linking their fingers together behind the back of their opponent. The match is decided by the best of three falls.

Wrestling at Grasmere Sports.

In former times the winners were awarded leather belts which were greatly prized possessions. Now the prizes are cups and cash payments. One condition of entry as a wrestler is the correct “fit-up” –  “a plush seat-piece” and a white vest. Some of the costumes are highly embroidered and one of the most amusing things are seeing the judges inspecting embroidered bottoms to award the prize for neatest costume!.

Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling.

More recently called Grasmere Sports and Show to appeal to a wider audience, the sporting events will always be at the heart of it.This year children’s races  for 5-10year olds are being re-introduced after a lapse of nearly 10 years and the organisers are always looking for something new to thrill the crowds with. Mountain Biking was introduced in 1995 and is a popular event. Hound Trails, Dog shows, Paragliding, have all been seen at the show. This year there is to be (weather permitting) a display by the RAF Falcon’s Team and Mountain Rescue demonstration with a Sea King Helicopter. Stalls with all manner of goods, Craft tents, Grasmere Sports has it all. And of course you can get a hand stamp and leave the field anytime to explore Grasmere Village.

Late 20's photo of father in law at Grasmere Sports.

My father in law is now well into his 90’s however he was telling me the other day about travelling to Grasmere Sports from Barrow in Furness when he was a toddler. It is his earliest memory, he describes travelling in a pearly white coach with a canvas roof. It had been raining heavily and with a childs curiousity he poked the roof and water flooded over the sides soaking everyone!. And yes he will be visiting the show again this year, probably one of the few who can remember seeing so many.

Grasmere Sports 2011 will be on Sunday 28th August

Grasmere Rushbearing Ceremony

I had never heard of Rushbearing until I moved to the Ambleside area many years ago.  My first introduction was when my son was young and I was informed that it was traditional to take part in the rushbearing parade with a decorated pram, oh and the best place to collect rushes very early in the morning was at Waterhead on the shores of Windermere Lake. It was a sharp but enjoyable learning curve, and my introduction to a very historic tradition.

Rushbearing Maidens at Grasmere.

Ambleside and Grasmere Rushbearing vary slightly but the general concept has remained the same for many centuries. It is a relic from the days when churches and other buildings had earthen floors. Rushes were collected from beside the lake and strewn on the floor for cleanliness and warmth. The custom is no longer needed as Grasmere church  has now had a flagged floor since 1841, but has been preserved as a village festival. It is the one thing that all villagers take part in from the youngest to the oldest.

Bearings being carried to the start.

Even the teenagers take part with pride. It may be the allure of Rushbearing sports and Gingerbread afterwards but even the boys hold the decorated floral bearings high.

Even the prams are decorated.

The two uses for the reeds and rushes show two different strands in the festival history.Firstly, carrying floral decorations in a procession had it’s origins in either the Roman pageant in honour of the Goddess Flora, or in even older Celtic summer rituals. Secondly the aforementioned more practical reason of carpeting the church floor.

Grasmere Rushbearing postcard

I collect postcards of Grasmere Rushbearing and this one shows how little the ceremony has changed over the years.

The Gold cross.

While personal bearings tend to be made early in the morning, the larger bearings are a real labour of love and take several days to work on. This year will prove a particular trial as we have had an extremely warm and dry summer. Rushes are easiest to work when they are not so dry and therefore more pliable. The first bearing in the procession is the Gold Cross. This is made from at least 400 blooms.

Carrying bearings.

Other bearings are simply “set off” with flowers. Originally it was taboo to use anything other than wild flowers, but gradually over the years cultivated flowers have appeared. They make the rushbearings look brighter and with so many wild flower species threatened it makes sense.

Procession reaches Broadgate.

The procession starts at the village school in Stock Lane and winds it’s way round the village to the village green where there is a short service and singing.

The Village Green.

Many of the bearings are traditional emblems that appear year after year. Moses in the bullrushes, St. Oswalds hand, with the message “May this hand never perish”, and the serpent (satan), and hoops, (symbols of eternity). The one I like just says “Peace” and was introduced after the First World War.


A maypole for the younger children to parade with, makes a lovely spectacle. (aren’t policemen getting younger all the time!”.

Rushbearing Maiden.

The thing that makes Grasmere Rushbearing unique are the Rushbearing Maidens. Usually chosen from the older girls in school, six are chosen to carry a hand woven linen sheet, trimmed with rushes, as the focal point of the procession.

Grasmere Rushbearing Maidens.

After processing round the village, bearers, led by the clergy, choir, rushbearing maidens with their sheet, the banner of St Oswald and the band playing what is known as “Jimmy Dawson’s March” the procession arrives at St Oswald’s church for a short service. Three Rushbearing hymns are sung. “The hymn for St Oswald”, “The hymn for the Rushbearers” and “The hymn for the Rushbearing” by Canon Rawnsley one of the founders of the National Trust.

Old postcard, Rushbearing at Grasmere.

In Grasmere Village Hall there is a beautiful painting of the Rushbearing by Frank Bramley,R.A. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1913. The painting is in the care of the National Trust and sadly out of sight most of the time behind wooden shutters for security. Every individual in the painting sat for their portrait. Mr Bramley lived at Tongue Ghyll in Grasmere for many years. There is a tablet in his memory in the Church above the belfry door.

Taking photos, Grasmere Rushbearing.

Like these people taking photos, hopefully one day, you too might experience this wonderful piece of living history, unique to Grasmere Village. And a final word. Yes some of these bearings are extremely heavy!.

Grasmere Rushbearing is on the 16th July 2011

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