Grasmere Rushbearing 2016 was rather a wet one. It became obvious fairly early on in the day that the rain wasn’t going to ease up.
With good spirit everyone dressed for the weather and started to parade through the town.
I thought the owner of Bridge House Hotel in the centre of this photo looked rather happy about something and later discovered she had become a Grandmother for the second time very early that morning!
Normally everyone gathers on the village green to sing the traditional Rushbearing hymns but the ground was a bit soggy so a stop was made on College Street instead.
I couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for the Rushbearing maidens. While everyone else had the benefit of a waterproof coat they had to tough it out in traditional costume.
I noticed more than one person dashing in to Lucia’s for a takeaway coffee to warm up with.
Time to head back to St Oswald’s Church
I think umbrellas brighten up the parade on a rainy day.
Taffy Thomas the storyteller always has a good view point from the Storytellers Garden.
Back at church and time to get inside and dry off before a welcome cup of tea.
Now all the time I was watching there was one thing that I kept thinking. How heavy must the cloth the Rushbearing Maidens were carrying have got as it was absolutely sodden by the end.
So well done girls you did a great job!
Anyone who wants to see photos of sunny Rushbearing parades need look no further than this blog. You win some and you lose some but no matter the weather the show goes on.
Doesn’t time fly past. Another year another Rushbearing Ceremony in Grasmere.
I have written about the history of Grasmere Rushbearing many times in this blog, but it never fails to be one of my favourite days in the village.
After a weather forecast that wasn’t looking good at all, the procession took place with dry weather. I was actually at work but dashed down the hill to view the procession and take some photos. I always have a dilemma about where to stand but my good friend Taffy the Grasmere Storyteller took the decision out of my hands when he offered a cup of tea in the Storytellers Garden to enjoy while watching.
A great Lake District tradition begins.
And here comes the band.
Villagers young and old(er) took part.
Even our local thespian Doctor takes part. Still can’t forget his performance as Toad of Toad Hall in Grasmere Players production a few years ago.
As always the highlight of the parade are the Rushbearing Maidens.
Through the village they process until they reach Moss Parrock in the centre of the village for the Rushbearing hymn. Back through the village again to the Church.
Alex who was holding the cross at the start of the parade had been baking scones all day at National Trust Allan Bank and literally ran down the hill to take part. He looks amazingly relaxed! By now these bearings feel heavier and heavier!.
The Rev’d Cameron Butland leads the way back to church for the Rushbearing service. A little bird tells me this may be his last Grasmere Rushbearing Parade.
So another Rushbearing Parade escaped the rain! See you in 2016.
A good friend who I met through the wonders of Twitter @Loftylion9 was watching the parade with me. She took the beautiful shot below and gave me permission to use it.
Below is a link to the history of Rushbearing that I previously wrote on this blog.
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!.
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.
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.
Then as so often happens, right at the last minute, the skies cleared.
There were still a few spectators balancing umbrellas but there was nothing like the torrential downpour that had started the day.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I collect postcards of Grasmere Rushbearing and this one shows how little the ceremony has changed over the years.
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.
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.
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.
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!”.
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.
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.
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.
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