Tag Archive | St. Oswalds church

Grasmere Riverside Walk

River Rothay Grasmere

This is a nice little circular walk round the village and takes you away from the traffic heading through the village. Suitable for wheelchairs and prams too, although it can get a bit muddy after heavy rain. It can be accessed from various places in the village.

Grasmere School

I started at the Stock Lane car park and walked along Stock Lane into the village past the village school, there used to be access through the school yard but this has been stopped as it wasn’t great when the children were out playing having random walkers crossing the playground. You can still connect to it this way at School holidays and weekends. Handy to know you can also park in the school yard during these times for a small donation through the school letter box for school funds.

Church Bridge

Crossing the river at church bridge you come to St. Oswalds church.

St Oswalds Church Grasmere

Dedicated to St Oswald, a 7th Century king of Northumbria. The oldest parts of the present church date back to Medieval times. Take the path through the churchyard which comes out at the Grasmere Gingerbread shop.

Grasmere Gingerbread Shop

The aroma will reach you before you get there. Hard to believe this tiny building was once the village school. You can also take a slight detour to your right to the Grasmere Daffodil Garden. Across from the gingerbread shop is Church Stile.

Church Stile Grasmere

A row of 17th century cottages which house the Storytellers Garden. Always worth a visit if Taffy Thomas Storyteller Laureate is at home.

You can go down to the right of the gingerbread shop beside the Wordsworth Hotel to join the riverside walk but we are carrying on through the village. Keep straight on and walk up College Street. On your right is the village green with Heaton Cooper Art Studios in front of you.

Heaton Cooper Studios Grasmere

Sam Read’s bookshop is to your left. Grasmere has a wonderful selection of independent and individual shops you won’t find anywhere else.

Sam Read's Bookshop Grasmere

Turn left at Sam Read’s and you are now on Broadgate. The whitewashed cottage across the open field to your left is a listed building called Dockwray. Dorothy Wordsworth recorded in her Grasmere Journal a visit to the cottage on May 28th 1800 to see her friend Jenny Dockewray.

Broadgate Grasmere

Walk along Broadgate until you reach the village Hall just beyond the row of shops. This is where the annual Lakes Artists Exhibition takes place in the summer. Turn down the side signposted car park while looking to your left over Broadgate meadow. You will see Grasmere’s war memorial located on a grassy bank. Close by is the “Peace oak” planted by Canon Rawnsley founder of the National Trust. It was planted on the 19th July 1919 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the start of the Great War.

Surrounding Fells

At the far side of the car park is a footbridge over the River Rothay, this is where we are going. From here there are great views of the Fells to the East especially Stone Arthur, with it’s rocky summit, and Heron Pike the fell further to the right. The rest of the walk is along the riverside back in the direction we started from. There are several good opportunities to take photos along the way.

Grasmere signpost

You can cut up to the main road at one point or head across the fields to the Swan Hotel. In the summer months red campion flowers along the riverbank, and if you are very lucky you may see a flash of blue as a Kingfisher darts by.

Grasmere Riverside Walk

After crossing a wooden bridge, carry on until you come to a metal bridge. This is the Millennium Bridge,

Grasmere Millennium Bridge

Built, yes you guessed it, to celebrate the Millennium.

Millenium Stone

Cross over and head to the right  with Grasmere Sports field on your left,past the workingmans club and along the little lane to your left.

Grasmere Sports Field

This brings you back to the main carpark where we started. There are toilets situated here but be aware they are not open in the winter months. That’s the Riverside walk finished but perhaps visit Dove Cottage which is out of the car park to your left, and rounds off the day nicely. Nice tea rooms there too.

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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