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Countrystride #71: A LAKE DISTRICT CHRISTMAS which we take a seasonal Grasmere wander in the company of historian, journalist and collector of Cumbrian cultural traditions, Alan Cleaver. Striking up moss-cloistered Huntingstile ('stile' means steep), we discuss the seasonal ballad 'Down t' Lonnin', recited each year by the Grasmere Players – and read to us by Elaine Nelson of Sam Read bookshop. Failing to persuade Alan to sing Arthur Somervell's 'Grasmere Carol', we arrive above Red Bank to reflect on seasonal misrule and authority attempts to ban all manner of Cumbrian fun – from snowball fights in 1840s Workington, to bringing pistols to school in 1700s Carlisle. Descending down icy Easedale, we learn about the Christmas tragedy of the Green family, and consider how the children – fending for themselves as their parents perished – became a model of Victorian fortitude. In fading light, we come upon Allan Bank, where local lad Paul Nelson reads Hardwicke Rawnsley's evocative description of the Keswick 'old folks' Christmas do'.

The Vale of Grasmere.

Our readers: with Alan are Paul and Elaine Nelson.

Our guest for the day - in his spiritual home of Huntingstile Lonning - Alan Cleaver.

Murky weather on Helm Crag.

The fine cairn atop Dow Bank.

One of Dave's favourite pools.

Considering the view over Silver How and Easedale.

Allan Bank - previous home of, among others, the Wordsworths and Hardwicke Ranwsley.

The Lonning (and now also Christmas) Man: Alan Cleaver.

Alan's book. Link to buy above...

As far as we know, this is the only recording of the Grasmere Carol. If anyone knows of any others - particularly sung by a choir (and even better, in Grasmere!), do let us know using the Contact Us link.

Dave and Mark wishing you a very Happy Christmas.


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