Countrystride

Countrystride #71: A Lake District Christmas

December 16, 2021
...in which we take a seasonal Grasmere wander in the company of historian, journalist and collector of Cumbrian cultural traditions, Alan Cleaver. Striking up moss-cloistered Huntingstile ('stile' means steep), we discuss the seasonal ballad 'Down t' Lonnin', recited each year by the Grasmere Players – and read to us by Elaine Nelson of Sam Read bookshop. Failing to persuade Alan to sing Arthur Somervell's 'Grasmere Carol', we arrive above Red Bank to reflect on seasonal misrule and authority attempts to ban all manner of Cumbrian fun – from snowball fights in 1840s Workington, to bringing pistols to school in 1700s Carlisle. Descending down icy Easedale, we learn about the Christmas tragedy of the Green family, and consider how the children – fending for themselves as their parents perished – became a model of Victorian fortitude. In fading light, we arrive at Allan Bank, where local lad Paul Nelson reads Hardwicke Rawnsley's evocative description of the Keswick 'old folks Christmas do'.

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