An army of volunteers has been in action this week to stage the Lake District’s oldest and most traditional sporting event.
Ambleside Sports is held today (Thursday) at Rydal Park with events starting at noon. But planning began 12 months ago, and the field has been transformed in the past seven days. The most complex task is the marking out and setting of the 300m track which hosts cycle and running races.
“This has to come first, and the rest of the arena is developed around the track,” said chairman Jak Hirst. “Though even before that, we have to clear the entire field of sheep droppings; that’s a massive task and we are really grateful to everyone who turns up to help on Shovel Sunday, before the event.
“The organisers set out to stage a fantastic festival of traditional sports. They aim to do this at affordable prices, enabling the whole community to enjoy the event, whether they are spectators or participants.”
His committee of around 40 helpers have to transport all the equipment from the store at Ambleside Rugby Club, install portable toilets, and build fences. Grass has to be mown and the various tents used on the day have to be erected and decorated. Contractors then deliver and build the huge marquees which house craft stalls, trade stands, refreshments, and the bar. On the day volunteers from two Rotary clubs, the Lions Club, Round Table and many other local organisations are on duty as marshals, stewards, and parking attendants.
The Sports, celebrating 130 years this summer, features hound trailing, Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling, grass track cycling and running. Additionally there are two fell races, the short and steep Guides Races, and the nine-mile Rydal Round which follows the route of the Fairfield Horseshoe. The first ever world championship in the Ladies Wrestling will also be taking place.
All the events are sponsored by local companies, who provide the cash prizes and trophies. “It is a fantastic community effort,” said Mr Hirst. “I think it is the involvement and interaction of so many sections of our community which makes our model work.”
He added: “Of course it is imperative that we have the continued support of the tenant farmer, Chris Hodgson, and the Le Fleming family, who allow us to use the land”.
But one loyal supporter will be playing a role for the last time this year. Sports retailer and former fell-racing champion Pete Bland, pictured here, is stepping down as race director for the Rydal Round after 32 years in the post.