Ambleside Rushbearing 2020 VIRTUAL RUSHBEARING

With the UK set to emerge from lockdown due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus restrictions the organisers of the traditional Ambleside Rushbearing had no alternative other than to cancel this year's event due to take place on Saturday 4th July.

But, in the true spirit of this tight-knit community, we present a Virtual Rushbearing allowing both residents and visitors alike to share their photos and personal recollections of Rushbearings past. Following an appeal on social media and word of mouth many families - whose roots in Ambleside stretch back generations - dusted off the family albums, scanned and snapped their pictures to share with others, many of whom have felt lonely due to social distancing guidelines.

Regrettably not all the photographs carry an attached credit or recollection but we hope you enjoy our virtual trip down memory lane and that you join us when we once again look forward to continuing our historic link with Ambleside Rushbearing in 2021.


Rushbearing procession families have been busy decorating their own rushes to carry alongside the traditional church offerings with young ones taking part from an early age and still involved many years later. Photo - Emma Peterkin

Luke Todd carried the Harp in 2011.

1950s Rushbearing recalled by Angela Wright.

A scene from 1962 also forwarded by Angela shows her brother, Keith, to the right of the harp.

Twenty years later Angela is still taking part in Rushbearing along with Ailsa Ross, Denise Morton, Helen Graham, Susan Cowking, Nigel Prickett, Debbie Murphy, Alan Bell and Kevin Parsons.

The Mortlock family forwarded this recollection from 1975.

A decade later and Corinne Burton is ready to set off in the 1986 procession.

Ann Gornall captures girls getting ready by the school for the start of the 1988 Rushbearing with the Church bearings.

Young friends Alexandra Menaud and Gemma Norcott holding hands in 1988.

More recently Emma Peterkin sent in the lovely pram decoration.

Back to the 1950s now with memories from Lorraine Haddath.

An infant Sophie Tyson enjoyed a 'Pushbearing' with her brothers in 1981.

Shirley and Luke Todd with the 2012 Harp he carried at the front of the Rushbearing. Luke's mum Helen, who has taken part in Ambleside Rushbearing from a youngster, provided this recollection of early childhood days.

"My earliest recollection of Rushbearing was when I was about seven years old. I went along with my mum to ‘help’ decorate the church bearings in the old Vicarage Room. Quite a lot of people were decorating their bearings outside, but the principal bearings were being decorated inside.

The most overriding memory is of Mrs Fawkes and Mrs Mallinson (Nursery Nurse and Nursery Teacher at the time) sitting at a table gently opening the water lilies, which had been collected the night before. These of course were to be put onto the Harp along with the hundreds of bunches of grass picked from the Rugby field by Dorothy Dugdale.

However, the lilies were full of spiders and other creepy crawlies, which neither Mrs Fawkes or Mrs Mallinson appreciated – in fact they squealed their way through the morning until all the water lilies were opened."

1953 RUSHBEARING - Do you recognise yourself on this photo?


With the traditional church rushes of the Harp and Church Staves, The World and The Crown at the head of the procession led by the Vicar and church dignitaries, the Rushbearing leaves St Mary's Parish Church and follows the established route through the town centre before gathering in the Market Place.


On arriving in the Market Square the Rushbearing halts to be addressed and those gathered to join in singing the traditional Rushbearing Hymn

Following this bearers 'Raise Rushes' much to the applause of the many followers and visitors who come back to watch year after year.

The local Burneside Brass Band accompany the singing and play during the procession.

1965 Rushbearing with Angela Wright as a little girl holding up her rushes.
Sheila Farren sent this photo of her grandfather Billy Nicholson leading the band on the 1962 Rushbearing
The 1973 Rushbearing recalled by Peter Maguire
Christine Wright holds the The Crown aloft in 2011

The Shingler family have been long standing supporters of Ambleside Rushbearing and David (pictured left with third generation bearer daughter Lydia) sent his recollection.

"This was a very special moment for me as it continued a tradition that meant so much to me in my childhood growing up in Ambleside.

The Rushbearing has always been important to our family. My parents bought their first business on Rushbearing day, allowing them to move to the Lakes from Birmingham. This was a dream move for both of them having met holidaying at White Cross Bay. For me involvement started in the early 80s in my pram and continued through school and into adulthood.

After leaving the area for work it was so special for me to return with my daughter to share in the tradition with another generation.

I look forward for the chance to return again, next time with Lydia's younger sister Agnes too and keep our Rushbearing connection alive."

Watch Burneside Brass Band playing the Rushbearing Hymn

The Rushbearing then proceeds back to St Mary's Church for a short blessing of rushes.


A tradition handed down through Ambleside generations has been a piece of gingerbread given to all children who took part in the procession and church service.

Many an older resident will tell you they endured sitting on an uncomfortable pew just to receive their treat at the end of the service...

Angela and Keith Wright in 1962
Sheila Farren enjoys her gingerbread in 1957
Ann Gornall captured the children collecting their gingerbread in 1988


Following the church service and consumed by gingerbread and their their traditional Rushbearing Tea, children take part in sports on Kelsick field where races, egg and spoon and all manner of children's favourites are competed for in light-hearted fun culminating in the unique fell race to the top of Todd Crag and back.

We hope you have enjoyed this brief look back at Rushbearing in days gone by and that you may have recalled many happy memories with those pictured, some of whom are now sadly no longer with us.

Like so many other traditional events it is a distressing sign of our modern times that such an infectious disease has made a large impact on our day to day community life. We take heart though that our friendships and fellowship has remained steadfast and provided much needed support to those most vulnerable and we look forward to welcoming you all back to join us in our 2021 Ambleside Rushbearing.

And finally, if you would like to see more then we are indebted to local residents, retired professional news cameramen Paul Allonby and Jim Bownass who tell the historic story of our proud Lake District tradition in this short film.