Skip to main content

Rushbearing in Sowerby Bridge

Spent the day at the Rushbearing Festival in Sowerby Bridge last Saturday for the first time in at least 12 years. The occasion was a family get-together, with it being my Mum's birthday on the Sunday, as well as a desire by my kids to take theirs where I'd taken them when they were little! So it was that 14 of us covering four generations enjoyed a pleasant lunch at The Moorings, by the canal basin, close to where some of the action was happening.

So what is the Rushbearing Festival all about? I was asked that by a couple of friends I'd seen at the station as we waited for the train from Brighouse. I mumbled some waffle by way of an answer, as over the years I had forgotten, and I had to look it up in order to jog my memory!

In doing so I was reminded that the event has been taking place in and around the town since 1977, although its origins date back to the 19th Century. It is based on the old tradition of presenting rushes to the local churches which were then used to cover their floors during the cold winter months. Whilst the tradition was probably stronger in the villages on the Lancashire side of the Pennines - it still continues in both Saddleworth and Littleborough today - it also took place in several towns and villages in the Calder Valley. It is the only one nowadays though that takes place in the county of Yorkshire, and if you google 'Rushbearing' it is number one on the list.

The focal point is the thatched rushcart, which is around 16ft tall and with a local young lady sat on the top. It is pulled for several miles through the Sowerby Bridge area by around 60 men dressed in white shirts, black trousers, clogs, and panama hats, often adorned with a different badge for each year they have been there. Some of them have been doing it for years - Chris, a friend of mine, proudly showed me the leather badge he'd got from 1983. Each year they are attached to his hat, so as you can imagine it is quite heavy! They normally carry a tankard around with them as surprisingly the event also involves a few stops at the pubs en route over the two days! As part of the ensemble, teams of morris dancers and mummers also take part, stopping to dance and perform whenever the cart is parked up.

It is a great family day out; the cart is a real spectacle, there are plenty of side events and activities, rides for the kids, many of the local shops and market are open, with local churches also being open for cakes and the like. There are also some excellent pubs and places to eat in Sowerby Bridge which are well worth a visit at any time during the year.

We gradually went our separate ways after spending some time in the sun around the Moorings. Some of us drifted on through the crowds to the Puzzle Hall, where we enjoyed a step-change in the beer quality - Salopian Lemon Dream was bang on form. The crowds came and came, the odd singer came and went, and eventually it was time to get the train back to Brighouse.

It had been a smashing day; a great time with the family, the weather had been kind, and the Rushbearing was as good as I could remember. So if the family want to do it again next year, that's fine by me. If you want to give it a try next year, it is normally held on the first weekend in September....


Popular posts from this blog

The Best Buffet Bar None....

One place I am definitely looking forward to visiting again when they re-open is the Buffet Bar in Stalybridge. And whilst it will be great to pay a visit as soon as it is possible, that first visit back to the famous bar on the Manchester Piccadilly to Huddersfield trans-Pennine route will no doubt stir up in me a huge dose of mixed emotions.... Stalybridge Buffet Bar is one of the few remaining Victorian railway station buffet bars left in the country, and is probably the best-known. I started visiting the bar regularly in 2006, when my job meant I was working about a mile and a half away in Hyde. Back in those days, the bar was owned by John Hesketh, who had spotted the potential of the rambling old Victorian station buffet as a real ale mecca. It had originally opened in 1885, and had meandered on over the years quietly serving customers on the trans-Pennine route, but back then it was not known for its beer. John's idea of a good selection of real ales in an atmospheric bar cr

The Town That Thinks It's A Village....

My time has been a bit limited recently for venturing too far afield, so last weekend I made the short journey to Elland to check out a few of the town's pubs and bars. Here's what I found.... Elland is a small market town in West Yorkshire, located between Halifax and Huddersfield beside the River Calder. It goes back a bit, being recorded as Elant in the Domesday Book of 1086, and over the centuries the town grew as a result of the woollen industry, with the town becoming home to several large mills. The coming of the Aire and Calder Navigation and the railways further helped the growth of the town. The subsequent decline of the woollen industry in the town meant that there were a number of empty mills left standing, and those that didn't burn down were put to other use, such as the home of Gannex, the now-defunct textile company whose raincoats were worn by the rich and famous, including former Prime Minister Harold Wilson. More recently, several mills have been converte

A Calder Valley Ale Trail - UPDATE August 2020

T he definitive guide to the pubs and bars that line the railways in the towns and villages of the beautiful Calder Valley in West Yorkshire, now with an update in light of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.... August 9th, 2020. The idea for a guide to the pubs along the railway line along the Calder Valley came about as I got fed up with people going on about the Ale Trail from Huddersfield to Stalybridge. I reckoned that the scenery along the Calder Valley was generally more attractive than its southerly rival, and whilst there were some excellent pubs along that route, there were equally some mighty fine pubs in Calderdale. And there was clearly a demand for such a guide: the number of page views I have had for this blog, which has been updated a few times over the years, is several times higher than my next most popular. I had been thinking for some time though that it needed a fresh look and a re-write; the inserted sentences and deleted entries means that it doesn't quite flow