I don’t know about you, but the dark evenings and cold temperatures can be a downer. But shouldn’t we embrace the colder seasons and those dark twinkly skies? Well, in Cumbria you can, as over the next few weekends the wonderful Winter Droving events return to Ullswater and Penrith. The droving events are an autumnal highlight, bringing magic, mayhem and music to the area, along with lots of light.
Yes, it’s that time of year again, when Penrith’s residents and visitors set their clocks back by not just an hour, but four centuries. So, why not wear a mask and join the drovers to welcome the coming winter? And this year as a fantastic bonus, the Ullswater Droving event returns as a boost to the festivities.
The droving events start on Saturday 21st October with the Welcoming of the Wolf in Glenridding and Pooley Bridge by Ullswater.
Wolves and tripping the light fantastic at Ullswater Droving
Eden Arts are working with the internationally-renowned outdoor arts organisation Walk the Plank to create a magical artwork in Pooley Bridge using Geolights. You might have seen these on BBC’s Countryfile. This unique technology has already seen thousands of people making magical light patterns as part of the Green Space Dark Skies project.
People carrying these Geolights are known as Lumenators. And for the Ullswater Droving, individuals, groups and families with older children are going to be participating as Lumenators for this unique event. Together they’ll create a large outdoor artwork to Welcome the Wolf.
The name Ullswater comes from the old norse word ‘Ulfr’, which means wolf. So, there’s no better location than Glenridding and Pooley Bridge on Ullswater’s shores to welcome the wolf.
The inimitable Spark! drummers are kicking off the event with light, sound and mystique as they process through the streets of Glenridding. They’ll sail on the water with Ullswater Steamers and disembark at Pooley Bridge Pier. From here, you’ll be able to watch their drumming spectacle as they lead the procession from the lakeside, through the village of Pooley Bridge. They’ll be followed by the hoards of Lumenators as they depart for their immersive Geolight performance. If you’re participating in this, you’re going to love it!
This is the fourth year that Ullswater Droving is taking place. Its first incarnation in 2016 offered a ray of hope after the floods of Storm Desmond washed away the bridge in Pooley Bridge. Ullswater Droving took place again in 2018 and 2019, so this is the first one to take place for a few years. And it should be a good one.
Fire, masks and animals as Winter Droving hits the streets of Penrith
After the Welcoming of the Wolf at Ullswater Droving, the Winter Droving event returns to the streets of Penrith in Cumbria. It takes place on Saturday 28th October in a celebration of light, fire and rural life. The festival’s motto is ‘turn your clocks back 400 years’ and its themes of Samhain, fire, animal effigies and masks wow every year.
At Winter Droving you can expect an array of masked musicians, street performers, giant animal lanterns and locals dressed in elaborate costumes. Yes, this is a truly unique celebration and one that’s steeped in tradition. But it’s also light-hearted and fun, with plenty of quirky activities to keep everyone amused throughout the day.
The event begins at 12pm, starting as it means to go on with a fancy dress competition for dogs. Across the rest of Penrith, the streets become something like a medieval market with traditional mulled wine and hot chestnuts alongside local produce including world foods, vegan and vegetarian cuisine, giftware, local artists’ works, quirky clothing and charity stalls. This year, there’s a family and children’s area in King Street with face painting and a craft stall for making animal-themed accessories, complementing the day’s festivities.
The Drover’s Cup also returns. This competition begins at 2pm on King Street and involves a series of challenges which test speed, agility, precision, strength and determination with a huge dose of self-deprecation!
Droving revelry returns
But there’s more to this day of Winter Droving. Marking the clocks going back and the town’s tradition of droving animals to the final market of the year, masked revellers dress up in their finest. You can expect everything from tweed caps and shepherd’s crooks to ancient druids and garb seemingly left behind when the Vikings left town. But there’s only one thing you need to do when you attend, wear a mask!
But if you want to go all out, then you’ll be pleased to hear there’s a ‘Best in Show’ rosette to be won. And the best outfits and masks will be invited to join the evening procession. And it’s set to be a big one. Last year the event saw more than 22,000 people pass through the town with a massive 8,000 people attending the parade.
Before the parade there’s live music, street performances, drumming bands and carnival street shows to enjoy. The street entertainment features walkabout and static street acts including Able Mabel, Felicity Footloose and Sporticus Athleticus, along with African Acrobatic Circus, Matrix Circus and Blast Furness.
Music comes from ska band Guns of Naverone; multi-national, Turkish and eastern turbo-folk with The Odd Beats; and funk hip-hop from Ant Thomaz. Delagrave, Uncle Carbuncle, Another Mister and BAAB make a welcome return too. And as if that isn’t enough, the Disco Tractor is back with an afternoon of scrumptious sounds from DJs The Farmer, LSD-Licious, and Rose Greenwood. The day closes with a set from the fantastic Baghdaddies as they return to Penrith with their eclectic fusion of rhythms and melodies plucked from around the world.
Are you ready for a howl?
When: 21st (Ullswater) and 28th October (Penrith) 2023
Where: Ullswater Droving takes place in Glenridding and Pooley Bridge and Winter Droving in Penrith, Cumbria
£: Free to watch
More info: www.edenarts.co.uk