Rushbearing in the Lake District.
Rushbearing is an ancient Lake District custom. The custom dates back to the times when the floors of churches were simply made of mud and earth. Every year, when the rushes were at their greenest, they were picked and taken to the church to cover the floor with new, sweet smelling grasses.
For families taking part in the Ambleside event, this means going out to the lake shores and picking lovely fresh green rushes. The rushes are then decorated and threaded though with flowers. This is the only time in their lives that our sons were happy to walk around carrying flowers!
In Grasmere too, everyone in the procession carries flowers and rushes. Even babies’ prams are decorated for the occasion.
Where and when do these events take place?
Ambleside- first Saturday in July.
Where and when can you see a Ceremony in 2017? Well, Ambleside Rushbearing takes place on Saturday, 1 July 2017. Traditionally Ambleside’s big day is the first Saturday in July . For more information you can read Ambleside Online’s website .
The traditional processesion in Ambleside assembles outside the school, and wends its way around the village, stopping at the Market Cross to sing the Rushbearing Hymn. Our children attended Ambleside Junior School, and the annual Rushbearing day was an important event in the calendar every year. All children carry rushes (reeds) decorated with flowers. There are also large set piece “bearings”, the frames which are stored every year and redecorated freshly each July. They are quite heavy, and need strong arms. There is a harp, a cross, and a crown among the large traditional pieces.
After the Rushbearing procession, sports were held in the park, and all the children got a big piece of sticky gingerbread.. possibly their favourite part of the whole event.
The band plays, the children and their families parade through the village- lovely! How wonderful that the old customs are still in full swing today.
Grasmere, 2nd Saturday in July (usually-)
Grasmere Rushbearing 2017 takes place this year on Saturday 8 July. You can read an excellent description of the 2016 event on Chris Shaw’s Grasmere Village Blog here.
2016 was wet! On her Grasmere Village Blog, Chris also has photos and news from a very sunny 2015 – click here to see it.
The customs of the Grasmere Rushbearing vary from those of Ambleside. In Grasmere the Rushbearing Maidens dress in their green dresses and carry the cloth. The large bearings are similar but not quite the same as those in Grasmere. The bearings are decorated in a different style.
Winding the rushes round frames takes place in St Oswald’s church Grasmere on the two days before the event. Helpers are always welcome.
The old hymns are sung and gingerbread is shared out. There is usually tea in St Oswald’s Church grounds, run by the WI.This year, due to the fact that a large chunk of the church yard is closed due to the Tower repairs, the after parade get together will take place in St Oswald’s, with musical accompaniment.
Here’s an old photo of Grasmere Rushbearing. The maidens today still wear the same outfits, but the clothing of the onlookers and other participants is much changed.
You can easily see either event if you are staying at Brockstone Grasmere Cottage.
Fingers crossed that the weather will stay dry this year.
For information about other villages with a similar events, click through here.