Houndtrailing copyright Val Corbett
Houndtrailing

Traditions

For centuries, settlements in the National Park area have been celebrating their local traditions.

Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling

This traditional sport, brought over by the Vikings, takes place at summer shows across the National Park. The earliest recorded match was in 1785 on a frozen Windermere near to Rawlinson’s Nab.

Some wrestlers wear the traditional costumes of white long johns, embroidered velvet trunks and a white vest. The wrestlers ‘tekk hod’ – take hold - and grasp each other with their chin on the other’s shoulder. The loser is the first to touch the ground with any part of his body, apart from the soles of his feet. The contest is judged on the best of three falls. Breaking hold is the equivalent of a fall. You can find out more on the BBC - Westmorland Wrestling page (opens in new window).

Fell running

The name of this sport comes from the local term ‘fell’ meaning mountain. Fell runners tackle arduous off-road routes at high levels and with gruelling gradients. Fell runners must be excellent navigators with enough mountain sense to survive in difficult weather conditions. The Cumberland Fellrunners Association (opens in new window) has more details.

Hound trailing

This uniquely Cumbrian sport is where hounds run over the fells after a scented aniseed trail in a test of speed and stamina. The trail hounds can average speeds of 20 miles per hour. The best ignore distractions such as drinking from becks or rabbit scents to cover the 10 miles in between 25 to 45 minutes.

For spectators, the most exciting sight is the finish where trainers use whistles and bells to encourage their hound across the line. Check out the (open in new window).

Description of a hound trail from Arthur Ransome's "Swallowdale":

“A native … came trotting down the beckside dragging a bundle of dusty sacking after him at the end of the rope. ‘You’ll be having the hounds through here, but don’t you mind them.’

‘What is it?’ asked Roger. ‘Is someone coming after him?’

‘No, no. It’s the loveliest thing’, said Nancy. ‘That sack he was lugging round is full of some smelly stuff. And they let all the hounds go together, no one with them, and they race over the trail made by the sack, right round over the fells and back again into the bottom. And when then when they’re coming in, you’ll hear all the men shouting to their own hounds, and each man has his own noise and each hound knows the noise that belongs to him.'

[Later] she was back again talking of the hound-trails, of the white specks flying through the heather, dropping down through the bracken on the steep hillside, getting larger and larger, until at last with the whole world yelling itself hoarse the winning hounds come loping into the sports field and the hound-trail is over.”

Rushbearing

Children taking part in traditional rushbearing ceremony

Rushbearing processions take place in Ambleside and Grasmere in the summer. They follow the tradition of gathering reeds from the lakes to replace the covering over the earthen floor of the local church. Children of the parish carry a cross made of rushes or flowers, and a band leads the procession to the church.

In Grasmere the ceremony is held on the Saturday nearest the 5 August, Saint Oswald's Day, who is the patron saint of the church.

‘World's Biggest Liar’ Contest

Will Ritson was a popular publican at Wasdale Head in the nineteenth century. His tall tales to visitors included how the local turnips were large enough to be hollowed out to be used as sheep sheds. Another was story was how he'd crossed a golden eagle with a foxhound to breed dogs with wings to fly over the drystone walls!

The annual ‘Biggest Liar in the World’ Contest judges who should follow in Auld Will’s footsteps. Past winners include comedian Sue Perkins. Lawyers and politicians are banned from entering. Find our more at Santon Bridge Inn website (opens in new window).

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Cottage near Coniston - copyright Charlie Hedley

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