Showtime In Cumbria

Cumbrian Agricultural Shows

No, not Oklahoma (or even Singin’ In The Rain) but the start of a series of traditional agricultural shows and Shepherds Meets that are held across the Lake District throughout the summer and into the autumn. As you wander around the shows you'll encounter true Cumbrians and possibly over-hear them speaking in the Cumbrian dialect - famous for its sheep counting "Yan, Tan, Tethera, ..."


The shepherds’ meet is thought to have originated as an organised way of returning stray sheep to their rightful owners. Each Lakeland fell had their own shepherds’ meet, which was held twice a year: at shearing time around July and at tupping time in October / November when the  ram is put to the Herdwick sheep flocks. These traditional get-togethers served as a social gathering in the farming year when challenges would be made and competitions held.

Fell Racing

A common event of many shows is the Fell Race. Usually a short, steep race run over the local fell and open to all-comers. Once a sport confined to locals, fell races now attract competitors from across the UK and abroad.

Popular races include the Grasmere Sports Senior Guides Race where competitors race to the top of Silverhowe - a two and a half kilometre run and a climb of 270m. In 2015 the winning time was just thirteen minutes - the record, set in 1978, is 12 minutes, 21.6 seconds.

Another popular fell race is the Borrowdale Fell Race. A much more demanding race of 27 km and 2000m climbed. The record for this race is 2 hours, 34 minutes and 38 seconds and was set by Billy Bland in 1981.

Sheep Shows

Another cornerstone of the agricultural show and meets is the judging of sheep. You will usually find competition classes for the traditional sheep breeds farmed in the Lake District – Herdwick, Swaledale and Rough Fell.

Herdwick, Swaledale & Rough Fell Sheep of the Lake District
Herdwick, Swaledale & Rough Fell Sheep of the Lake District


Cumberland & Westmorland Wrestling

Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling is one of the main crowd pullers at shows throughout the Lakes. The sport is over two hundred years old and has barely changed with the same terminology and tactics still used today. The aim of this traditional form of wrestling to is ‘fell’ your opponent. This sounds simple enough, but when both competitors have their arms locked around each other, the opportunities to ‘fell’ your opponent arise from deft footwork and the quick shifting of weight. Several rounds or bouts are held and the winner is the one who has felled his opponent the most.

Also unchanged for the most part is the costume. This consists of a white vest, tights & socks complemented by embroidered pants, usually velvet. The embroidery relates to the interest or association of the wearer. There are prizes for the best costume.

There are various weight classes and the winners go forward to compete for county, country and world titles. Many shows have open events in which members of the public can participate.



Stick Dressing

A more obscure competition held at many shows and meets is the Stick Dressing Competition. Competitors are required to submit a stick or crook with a handle of carved horn. The detail and accuracy of the carvings is exceptional and worthy of a closer look.


 Winning Dressed Sticks - Eskdale Show 2015

Photo by Peter Trimming under CC Licence


Hens, Horse And Produce

Most shows have a wide range of competitions and exhibits which include the traditional produce and flower show. You may also find Poultry, Horses, Vintage Farm Vehicles, Photography, Hounds and Terriers, and much more.