The young boys were bent chest to chest, grasping each other around their backs. The referee made sure they weren’t moving an inch before shouting “Wrestle.” There was a blur of arms tightening and legs entwining before the lad in the red shorts was on the floor and the other was declared the winner. “Best of the three,” said the ref and they went again. This time the boy in the blue t-shirt was on his back. In this final round for under-9 years boys Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling, he won; but there were more rounds to come …
Next came the older boys, the girls (yes, shock-horror … they allow girls now) and finally the men. This traditional sport has been practised in the Lake District for hundreds of years. The traditional costume of white long johns and colourful pants often embroidered with flowers has been mainly replaced by more casual modern attire though some still wear it. I was at the Langdale Gala, a Lake District Show held on the first Sunday in July in Chapel Stile.
The Langdale Gala
As is often the case in this part of the world, the weather was less than clement, but a bit of cloud and a rain shower or two does nothing to dampen the Lake District spirit. The show started with the Gala Royalties Parade and the Crowing of the Gala Queen. Surrounded by her maids-in-waiting and her young King and his attendants (not all of whom looked quite as delighted as the girls to be involved in this charming ceremony), the Queen beamed happily as she received her crown and waved to the applauding crowd.
There followed the Fancy Dress Competition ( Jemima Puddle Duck won) and the Pet Show (categories included the ‘Waggiest Tail’ and ‘Pet most like its Owner’) whilst a colourful band of drummers marched around the ground beating out lively tunes. Ice creams were bought, burgers eaten and bouncy castles attacked.
In the best tradition of country shows around the UK, there were various tents and competitions to raise money and engage the crowd. A huge ram stood patiently in a pen whilst people tried to guess his weight (I think it was 77 kgs). Wilfs of Staveley provided delicious sandwiches and tasty bakes whilst a local brewery served beer and cold drinks to thirsty folk. In the Craft Tent kiddies showed off their Lego creations, photos and biscuit towers whilst grown-ups vied for first place with elaborate floral displays, beautiful cakes, pots of jam and giant vegetables.
The highlight of the Langdale Gala is the Fell Races, this year sponsored by local holiday homes providers The Good Life Cottage Company. Fell Racing involves running up a very steep mountain, in this case one of the famous Langdale Pikes behind the village field, in the fastest time possible. Runners of all ages took part in the races, varying in length, depending on age. The most popular was the Adults Fell Race, which every year attracts runners from around the country, keen to test themselves against fellow competitors but more importantly, the challenging Lake District mountains. They set off at at a cracking pace and were soon streaming out in a colourful ribbon up the mountain side. Within 10 minutes the winner was racing back to the finishing line, barely out of breath …
Other attractions at the Gala included a display of Classic Rover Cars, the local Fire Brigade and Mountain Rescue vehicles, juggling and circus skills, ‘Best Beard Competition’, a Raffle and a demonstration of Sheep Shearing. A small flock of Herdwick Sheep were shorn of their thick fleeces then stood shivering in a pen beneath the fells. The farmer’s son gazed open-mouthed as Dad wielded his razor on the sheep clamped between his legs, shearing in double quick time.
I spent quite a bit of time in The Good Life Cottage Company tent. There was a steady stream of cottage owners, guests and people enquiring about staying in one of their properties. I’ve been working with the company for some time now and been fortunate to stay in quite a few of their attractive cottages. Manager Natalie’s gentle rescue dog proved popular with everyone; she seemed very at home at the show.
This weekend I stayed in ‘Jonty’s Cottage‘ in the pretty village of Elterwater in the heart of the Langdale Valley. It’s in a great position, only a couple of minutes’s walk from the Britannia Inn, and surrounded by excellent walking and driving routes. All on one floor, with two bedrooms and a lounge-dining room with superb views, its been recently refurbished to a very high standard. The decor is in clean, modern colours and there’s a really relaxing ambiance to this popular place.
I spent a lot of my time in the cottage reading and watching Wimbledon. The great thing about staying in a self-catering holiday property is that you all the comforts of home, without that nagging feeling you ought to do some housework, weed the garden or clean the fridge. (I speak personally here; you may already do all of this all the time in your own home – I don’t.) With a fully-equipped kitchen I was able to microwave my ‘Not Just Any …‘ meal and rustle up scrambled eggs and bacon with no hassle whatsoever. With a bottle of chilled white wine and wifi for when when I got ‘social media deprivation’, it made for a very relaxing stay.
Guided Tour of Jonty’s Cottage
Watch this video guide to Jonty’s Cottage to get an idea of the situation and layout. Apologies for the quality of the footage but it does give you an idea of how lovely this property is.
The Good Life Cottage Company will be attending a number of Lake District Shows throughout the summer of 2016 – watch out for their tent and go say hello to Natalie and her dog.