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The Winter Droving: Don’t Miss Out on Penrith’s Biggest Cultural Event

Winter Droving Masked Procession

18 October 2019 13:26

Our preview of the Ullswater and Winter Droving 2019 festivals

There’s more to Cumbria and the Lake District than the rugged landscape - in October you can experience culture dating back hundreds of years, with a distinctly modern twist. 

The Ullswater Droving and Winter Droving, taking place on 25th and 26th October respectively, celebrate the Eden Valley’s rich rural heritage. 

Allow them to transport you back in time, and get lost in the rituals and festivities. Make sure you don’t miss out on what has proven to be one of Cumbria’s biggest cultural events over the last few years. Find accommodation in Penrith for The Winter Droving here.

2019 will be the sixth Winter Droving festival, meticulously planned and pulled together by local arts organisation Eden Arts. 

Historically, the winter droving arrived at the end of the harvest season and was the time of year when herds of cows were led south from Scotland to be sold. Penrith as a market town, and not far from the Border, was an integral part of this historic route. 

In reference to this, the festival features huge highland cows lifted above the crowds on stilts. Walking among the cows will also be a dazzling range of other illuminated animals with the masked procession, which in previous years have taken the form of giant sheep heads and howling wolves. 

It also coincides with Samhain, the ancient Gaelic pagan festival marking the end of the harvest, and the end of British Summer Time as the nights really start to draw in and Winter bears down upon us. A time when, according to mythology, doors to the Otherworld opened, allowing the dead and supernatural to enter our world.

With all the masks, torches and animals, you’ll certainly feel as if you’ve stepped into another world, or happened across a host of beings from elsewhere during The Winter Droving.

Ullswater Droving

The Winter Droving weekend kicks off with the smaller Ullswater Droving on Friday 25th October from 5pm. Taking place in Pooley Bridge, the event seeks to set the tone for the weekend with performances from internationally-renowned Catalonian street theatre act, Kamchatka, and genre-defying music group, The Baghdaddies.

Blurring the line between performance and real life, Kamchatka will be exhibiting their exhilarating, thought-provoking brand of street theatre from 5pm in the village centre.

Hailing from the North East and regulars on the Cumbrian music scene, featuring at other local festivals such as Solfest, The Baghdaddies present a lively mix of world music, incorporating Balkan elements with ska and Latin influence for a big brass party.

Arriving via Ullswater Steamer, at 6.30pm the band will lead the procession of attendees through the village to the big bonfire where the night will culminate in music, performance and more.

No need to worry if you get peckish or thirsty; there’s hot and cold foot available to eat and take away including a Christmas taster menu from 1863 Bistro and various other treats available throughout the village. 

You can register to carry a torch in the procession (if you’re over 16) for the price of £2 - you can sign up here.

It’s free to attend the Ullswater Droving, and no ticket is needed, so just turn up and immerse yourself!

The Winter Droving

Once you’ve gobbled up the taster of the Ullswater Droving, the main course awaits you the following day, Saturday 26th October. Just like the Ullswater Droving, The Winter Droving is free to attend.

Things kick off with music and live performances from 11am in the historic market town in what’s sure to be a busy day - over 8,000 flocked to the streets of Penrith for 2018’s event.

Entertainment will take place across the town with six stages hosting a range of music and street performers. In addition to this, there’ll be a vintage funfair to look forward to, one of Cumbria’s largest local food markets and a craft market.

The Drovers Cup

While there, you can also bear witness to the barmy Angel Lane Chippie-sponsored Drovers Cup. Starting at 1.30pm, the cup features teams vying to win a series of oddball challenges comprising Hay Bale Racing, Pint Passing, Egg Throwing, Tug-O-War, and Sausage Eating.

Throughout the day, there will be a range of activities to partake in as well as musicians and performers to watch. You can come away with new skills after poi spinning and acrobatics workshops.

Music and Performance at the Winter Droving

There will be a range of music to suit all tastes from street bands to singer-songwriters, folk, world music and others you’d struggle to classify!

Musical headliners on the night are Z.O.G and the Zongo Brigade, an 8-piece afro-fusion band comprising members from Ghana, Jamaica and the UK, mixing afrobeat, hip hop, soul, reggae, rock, and funk to dazzling effect.

Other musical acts include Ponyland, Hadrian's Union, BAAB, Gaita Band, BLAST Furness, Dandelion Train, Drum Nation, Ben Rowlands, Melanie Baker, The Harmonic Minors, Blue Jam Arts and more!

A number of street performers will also be on hand to provide entertainment throughout the day, with acts ranging from jugglers to street theatre practitioners, dancers and acrobats.  Performers include Gandini, Kamchatka, The Wheelabouts, Dick Danger, The Flying Colours, Painting Venice, Other Half Productions, Nula Hula, Mary the Faerie and more delighting festival goers.

Bringing your dog along? There’s the Vets4Pets Dog Fancy Dress Competition, giving entrants the chance to win Vac4Life, a lifelong preventative plan offering vaccinations, boosters and annual health checks. You can sign your pooch up here.

The procession sets off from St Catherine’s Playing Field (aptly on Drover’s Lane) at 6.30pm, making its way to the Market Square for 7.00pm, reaching an end at Great Dockray, the former 18th century cattle market, for 7.30pm. It’s here that the remainder of the night’s festivities will take place. 

Mask wearing is strongly encouraged - in fact there will be mask police on the day with punishments for those that don’t comply!  You can even be a torch carrier, you can sign up here

Looking for accommodation for the Winter Droving?

Absolute Escapes has a number of Penrith self-catering holiday cottages suitable for couples, families, or groups of friends. Have a look and make sure you find the perfect place to unwind after a busy day at the Droving.

Make sure you get somewhere to stay in time for the Droving, book soon!

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