Cumbria – home to England's highest mountain, its largest lake, the friendliest people and the world's biggest liar… How well do you know the local secrets?
1. What a jam eater is
Considered extremely insulting, this is what people from Wukitn (Workington) call people from White’evan (Whitehaven) and what people from Whitehaven call people from Workington, as part of the long-term rivalry between the towns. It originates from days in the coal mines but no-one seems to agree whether it meant someone was a rich snob because they could afford jam in their sandwiches or a poor peasant because they could only afford jam instead of meat!
2. The difference between an Uppie and a Downie
Workington is home to a tradition called Uppies and Downies, a sort of medieval version of football. There are no rules, no time limit on a game and no referee! One guideline is given in order to create the teams. If a person lives above the Cloffocks (a plot of land belonging to the people of Workington), they are an ‘Uppie’. Someone who lives below the Cloffocks is a ‘Downie’. Workington holds Uppies and Downies matches every Easter.
3. Where to find the most blackites
There are good crops of these along the walk from Grasmere to Rydal Water – just don’t tell everyone! Take a bag – and maybe some young helpers – with you to collect the berries, known elsewhere as blackberries. If you’re a jam eater (see above) you could try making some jam.
4. What goes on at the Egremont Crab Fair
Every year, the people of Egremont hold a celebration after harvest time known as The Crab Fair. The Lord of Egremont started a tradition of giving away crab apples, which gave the fair its name. The tradition continues today with the Parade of the Apple Cart, where apples are thrown to the crowds in the Main Street. The fair starts with sporting events including Cumberland wrestling (see below). Other amusements include the celebrated World Gurning Championship, where contestants pull ugly faces wearing a horse collar or ‘braffin’.
5. How Cumberland wrestling works
Competitors wear a traditional costume of long johns and an embroidered vest. To begin a match, the wrestlers must ‘tekk hod’ – linking their fingers together behind the back of their opponent. This can take quite a while! The contest is ‘best of three falls’. If the hand hold is broken, that also constitutes a fall. Wrestling always takes place on grass.
6. The best way to count sheep
Yan, tyan, tethera… (one, two, three). The Cumbrian numbers often known as sheep-counting numerals are still used by shepherds in the area. The word ‘yan’ (meaning one), for example, can be heard throughout Cumbria, eg, ‘That yan owr there’ or ‘Can I have yan of those?’ It’s said the shepherds, on reaching 20, would transfer a pebble or marble from one pocket to another to keep a tally.
7. How to tell a tall tale
The World’s Biggest Liar competition is held every November at The Bridge Inn, Santon Bridge. The contest was established in the 19th century, in memory of local landlord Will Ritson, a notorious teller of tales. Each of the competitors from around the world has five minutes to tell the biggest and most convincing lie they can without any script or props. For obvious reasons, politicians and lawyers are barred from entry. One year, the winning story claimed that many Cumbrians are four per cent badger.
8. What the pop lorry was
Many Cumbrians remember the time when a blue and white van pulled onto the street and sounded the horn and old people came out for lemonade and children ran to get money for the pop man. Hodgson’s began as a horse and cart operation in the 19th century and its van became a well-known sight all over the area. The firm ceased trading after ‘pop man’ James Barry Fitzsimmons died in 2005, having spent 30 years delivering soft drinks.
9. The location of the world’s longest coloured pencil
That would be at the Pencil Museum in Keswick, of course! You may think there’s not much point in it, but it still keeps drawing people in… Perhaps because it’s a handy escape on a rainy day. Cumbria is affected by the North Atlantic Drift which, together with the mountainous landscape, makes it the wettest part of England.
10. Where to get great gingerbread
Victorian cook Sarah Nelson invented Grasmere Gingerbread, a unique, spicy-sweet cross between a biscuit and cake. She’d sell it to villagers and visitors from a table top on a tree stump outside her front door. Her former home is now the Grasmere Gingerbread Shop, where it’s baked every day to her unique, secret recipe.
11. How to lift a sneck
‘Sneck’ is a local word for door latch. A sneck lifter is a man’s last sixpence, allowing him to lift the pub’s door latch and purchase a pint. After that, he’ll hopefully make enough friends to buy him more rounds. Sneck Lifter beer was launched in 1990 by Jennings Brewery, which was established in 1828 in the village of Lorton, between Buttermere and Cockermouth. Cheers!