One of the most immersive and iconic events in northern sporting and countryside culture – the Grasmere Lakeland Sports and Show – will thrill visitors to the World Heritage Site of the Lake District, on August Bank Holiday Sunday (August 27, 2023), even if they ‘hate’ sport.
The sports field in the village made world-famous by William Wordsworth, nestling under breathtaking, imposing fells that may suddenly reveal a hang-glider or RAF jet trying to get in on the action, will be continuing to uphold traditions from the Victorian poet’s day.
This includes a whole programme of Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling competitions, across a variety of age groups and both men’s and women’s competitions, or mixed wrestling contests in younger categories.
Getting to grips with this part of Cumbrian culture is a treat, as you hear surnames of competitors from avid Cumberland and Westmorland families, repeated across different contests. Just as enthralling is watching have-a-go children, with little or no experience. Working out the rules, and what on earth different moves are called, is fascinating.
This year, the wrestling programme could be the one to watch, with a World Champion set to be crowned in the All-Weights division – the one they all want to win as the most prestigious of the wrestling programme categories.
That, of course depends on whether you can tear your eyes away from the sight of fell runners ascending what seems like impossibly steep and tough terrain, whether aged 8, closer to 80, or somewhere in between. Picking out a runner to follow and trying to focus on them, as they climb high and are either undone by the fell, or manage to appear from the gorse and wooded areas, suddenly striding out across the ridge at the top, is truly addictive.
The antics of the hounds following an aniseed trail is another thing with no real parallel, particularly when it becomes clear, by the banging of metal dog bowls, that an owner’s dog has been spotted descending the fell and is being encouraged home with great gusto.
Add to this a large number of athletics events on the field, a dog show, family entertainment and food stalls, a chance to ride a bicycle that goes the opposite direction from which you anticipate (and many other quirky bikes besides), a circus workshop and street entertainment from Fire Man Dave, plus rousing music from the Fat Cat Brass Band and Badman Soul, and there’s nothing quite like Grasmere Lakeland Sports and Show.
From the minute the Bellman rings the bell to signal the official start of the show at 10am, to when it closes 5pm, you will be hooked, somehow becoming assimilated into a traditional event and a Lakeland culture that’s all about fantastic sporting endeavours, family pride and wholesome values. You’ll find it hard to shake off the memories, once you’ve experienced it. It’s centred on sport but it’s about so much more than sport.
Online ticket prices are £12 for an adult, £5 for a child or £28 for a family ticket for two adults and two children. On the day tickets cost £15 for an adult and £5 for a child. Buy tickets online to buy at the best price, for what is possibly the most addictive and wholly different day out of the summer. Gates open at 9am.