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Fifty reasons to be proud of Cumbria

Published on: Thursday 30th March 2017

The people, the places, the traditions, the facts, the downright ridiculous…

1. #SpiritofCumbria: The unshakable spirit of the county is renowned the world over. Whatever is thrown at is, we refuse to be beaten. This was perhaps most evident during Storm Desmond in 2015 when, touched by our fighting spirit, people from all over the globe latched on to the hashtag #SpiritofCumbria - started by CN Group - sending messages of support and offers of help.

2. Sausages: You can’t think of Cumbria - Cumberland, in any case - without thinking of Cumberland sausage. We think it’s simply brilliant. After a hard-fought campaign, producers in the campaign secured a ruling that only sausage made here can be branded as real Cumberland sausage.

3. The Romans: They marched through the county and left an amazing legacy in Hadrian’s Wall, currently Cumbria’s only World Heritage site. Running east from Bowness on Solway, people come the world over to see how Emperor Hadrian desperately wanted to keep the Scots out. Elsewhere there are remains of forts and exhibits of fabulous finds made on archaeological digs. The legacy of the Romans is a big part of what our county’s all about.

4. Raise a glass: The Lakes Malt, the first malt whisky distilled in Cumbria for more than 100 years, reaches its maturity in December. It has been developed at The Lakes Distillery at Bassenthwaite and Princess Anne has had a glimpse at how the enterprise is taking shape.

5. Submarines: The Barrow shipyard is at the forefront of naval submarine production in Britain and at the heart of the Government’s nuclear sub programme. BAE Systems employs more than 5,000. It’s a business critical to Cumbria’s financial fortunes.

6. Steepest road: With an overall gradient of one in three (33 per cent) and up to one in 2.5 in places, Hardknott Pass is the steepest road in England. Other major passes in Cumbria include Kirkstone Pass (one in four), Honister Pass (one in four), Wrynose Pass (one in four) and Whinlatter Pass (one in eight).

7. Ospreys: Cumbria became the first place in England - after 150 years - to successfully see wild osprey chicks bred. The nesting site at Bassenthwaite has a huge following, with ospreys having now returned there for several years. Conservationists have since tracked the birds’ amazing journeys all over the world.

8. Gurning: It’s not the prettiest of competitions, but it’s certainly unique. Egremont Crab Fair is home to the annual World Gurning Championships, where competitors battle it out to see who can pull the least attractive face. Aspatria’s Tommy Mattinson enjoys global fame, having won the title a record-breaking 14 times.

9. Largest stone circle: Long Meg and her Daughters in the Eden Valley is the second largest stone circle in Europe. Legend tells that Long Meg was a witch turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath but anybody who can count the stones twice and get the same number will release her from the spell.

10. Biscuits: Carlisle’s McVitie’s biscuit factory has a unique place in history as home to the Carr’s Tablewater biscuit. This special cracker can only be baked in the Caldewgate factory’s ovens. The same factory is also home to the custard cream. Built in 1831, It employs about 600 people these days and has twice battled back from being swamped by floods, in 2005 and 2015. Work is underway to create a statue of its famous women workers, affectionately known as cracker packers. It’s set to be unveiled on International Women’s Day 2018.

11. Tallest pencil: The world’s tallest pencil, standing at more than 26ft long, can be found in Keswick at the Cumberland Pencil Museum which tells the history of pencil making and the town’s part in the industry.

12. Stan Laurel: One half of Laurel and Hardy, he was born in his grandparents' house in Argyle Street, Ulverston. He, of course, went on to enjoy international fame. A statue featuring he and comedy partner Oliver Hardy stands in Ulverston in recognition of their groundbreaking work in comedy. Laurel was given a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He died in February 1965, aged 74.

13. World’s Biggest Liar: Lies are not usually something to be proud of, but in Cumbria they are. Because there are lies in the best - funniest - way. The World’s Biggest Liar contest, held annually at Santon Bridge, is a colourful and fun contest, where people have to come up with the best, most unlikeliest, tales. Previous winners include Sue Perkins, one half of television presenting duo Mel and Sue.

14. Herdies: Herdwick Sheep are unique to Cumbria. A particularly hardy breed, their distinctive dark wool enables them to survive on exposed fell tops. Increasing uses are being found for their wool and their meat, with renewed efforts being made to market them all over the world.

15. Sellafield: The site - and all the work that goes on around it - is an international centre of excellence in the atomic industry. The jobs of thousands of people are linked to the sprawling complex. People from all over the world look to developments at Sellafield to tackle some of the most complex issues in global engineering.

16. Carlisle Castle: The fact that this castle is still standing is, in itself, an amazing feat. It was a working fortress until well within living memory, has withstood many sieges, was a place where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner and is now home to the impressive Cumbria Museum of Military Life. The first recorded game of football was played in the castle’s grounds.

17. Places of worship: St Olaf’s church at the head of the Wasdale valley is claimed to be the smallest church in England. Carlisle Cathedral, built in 1122, is the second smallest cathedral in Europe.

18. Star status: Cumbria is becoming the backdrop to an increasing number of films and television shows. In recent years the county has featured in the movies Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Swallows and Amazons as well as television shows including ITV’s Safe House, Johnny Vegas sitcom Home from Home and The A Word.

19. The University of Cumbria: In its tenth anniversary year, the University of Cumbria is gaining a growing reputation for its courses. With its headquarters in Carlisle, it has campuses in Ambleside and Tower Hamlets, London. Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu is its chancellor.

20. Racecourses: Tracks at Carlisle and Carmel are great venues for racegoers. Carlisle, owned by the Jockey Club, has a growing list of meetings and events. Cartmel is renowned for its intimate atmosphere, only holding National Hunt meetings between May and August. Cumbria is also home to vibrant point-to-point scene for amateur jockeys.

21. Emlyn Hughes: The former Liverpool and England footballer is one of Barrow’s most famous sons. He was himself the son of Fred Hughes, a former Barrow and Workington Town player. Hughes captained Liverpool to four league titles, an FA Cup victory and two European Cups. He died from a brain tumour in 2004, aged 57. There’s a statue in his honour in Barrow.

22. Britain’s best road: The A591 between Windermere and Keswick has been named Britain’s Best Road following research from YouGov on behalf of satellite navigation firm, Garmin.

23. Beatrix Potter: The legendary children’s author and conservationist has left an amazing legacy for Cumbria. People come from the world over to see the landscape that inspired classics such as Peter Rabbit and the World of Beatrix Potter attraction at Bowness-on-Windermere. Following her death in 1943, she left nearly all her property, including 16 farms and herds of cattle and Herdwick sheep to the National Trust.

24. Sticky Toffee Pudding: It’s a source of intense debate where the best sticky toffee pudding in the county can be found. Some consider it that from Cartmel. Others believe it to be the recipe pioneered by legendary hotelier Francis Coulson at Sharrow Bay, on the shores of Ullswater. You need to try both to decide for yourself . . .

25. Tullie House: Carlisle’s museum and gallery is a real treasure. It’s home to a rare collection of Roman finds as well as the city’s civic collection of arts. Staff there are currently creating a new attraction, erecting the skeleton of a whale beached at Drigg in west Cumbria to stand in its entrance.

26. Live music: Cumbria’s pulling power for live music is growing ever stronger, with an increasing array of venues. This summer, Little Mix and Bryan Adams will play at Bitts Park in Carlisle, UB40 and Olly Murs are heading to Carlisle United’s Bitts Park, Sir Tom Jones to Cartmel Racecourse, while Kendal Calling, near Penrith, has a massive line-up including the Stereophonics. Places like The Brickyard in Carlisle and Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, trailblaze acts. For more great gigs, go to

27. England’s highest market town: Alston, in the Pennines, is England’s highest market town, sitting about 1,000ft above sea level. Its residents have a well-earned reputation for not letting their remoteness get in the way of them having services they deserve. The town is also home to the expanding South Tynedale Railway, in which millions of pounds is being spent on an extension.

28. Uppies and Downies: Workington’s famous mass football game has a global reputation, with teams from two parts of the town taking each other in a three-match season that starts at Easter. It’s not for the faint-hearted as each side battles it out to hail the ball to victory. The event has attracted worldwide media attention. It regularly attracts more than 300 players and 1,000 spectators.

29. Prince’s pub: The Old Crown pub, at Hesket Newmarket, is one of Prince Charles’ favourite pubs. It is a trailblazer, having been bought by its customers who formed a cooperative in 2003, saving it from closure. The prince is one of the county’s most frequent royal visitors

30. Houndtrailing: A popular pastime around Cumbria. A big betting sport, there are at least two or three meets a week. The hounds are set to follow an aniseed trail of varying lengths. It is a deadly serious game with trailers feeding their hounds special diets with all sorts of tricks for getting the best out of the animal. If a hound goes missing during a trail all other trails are cancelled until the missing animal is caught.

31. Furness Abbey: The abbey dates back to 1123 and was once the second wealthiest and most powerful Cistercian monastery in the country, behind only Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire. It was founded by founded by Stephen, later King of England.

32. Kendal Mint Cake: Another of our most famous culinary creations, this tasty treat accompanied Sir Edmund Hilary and Sirdar Tensing on on the first ever successful ascent of Everest in 1953. Choose Cumbria even has its own branded Kendal Mint Cake!

33. Sir Chris Bonington: A national treasure, the legendary mountaineer calls the Northern Fells his home and is a powerful advocate for the county. He made the first British ascent of the North Wall of the Eiger and led the expedition that made the first ascent of The South Face of Annapurna, the biggest and most difficult climb in the Himalaya. He led the first ascent of the South West Face of Everest in 1975 and reached the summit of Everest himself in 1985.

34. Eddie Stobart: Founded in the village of Hesket Newmarket in 1970, this is Britain’s most famous transport company, renowned for it’s green and white wagons, all with individual women’s names. The firm - whose trucks are moving into a new warehouse at Carlisle Airport as part of a redevelopment by the Stobart Group - has a cult following. It has more than 2,500 trucks.

35. Britain’s best newspaper: The Cumberland News - part of the family-owned CN Group - was named the country’s best weekly newspaper in 2016, a title it’s been handed no fewer than eight times. It’s stablemates the News & Star, North West Evening Mail, Times & Star, Whitehaven News, Cumbria Life and Carlisle Living are also no strangers to awards success.

36. Ben Stokes: England cricket’s poster boy grew up in Cockermouth and set off on the path that’s made him the most expensive player in the Indian Premier League - when Rising Pune Supergiants bought him for £1.7m for this coming season - with the town’s cricket club. His dad, New Zealander Ged Stokes, is a former coach of Workington Town and Whitehaven Rugby League clubs. Photo: PA Wire/Press Association Images

37. The La’al Ratty: One of Cumbria’s quaintest attractions, the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway is one of the oldest and longest narrow gauge railways in England, known affectionately as La’al Ratty meaning “little railway “. The heritage steam engines transport passengers from Ravenglass, the only coastal village in the Lake District National Park, to Dalegarth for Boot 210ft above sea level.

38. Postman Pat: The inspiration for the children’s character Postman Pat, written by John Cunliffe, came while he was living in Kendal and the surrounding area.

39. Unique maritime history: During the American War of Independence, Whitehaven was briefly invaded by American forces. Father of the US Navy John Paul Jones, born in Kirkbean, Dumfriesshire, raided the town in April 1778. He took the fort, spiked its guns, burned ships and made off in his vessel, Ranger. Whitehaven’s marina remains busy with Jones’ legacy celebrated throughout the town at attractions including The Beacon and The Rum Story.

40. Alfred Wainwright: AW, as he was known, was a legendary Lakeland writer, living in Kendal. His pictorial guides to the Lake District’s 214 fells remain a bible for walkers, with people travelling from all over to bag the Wainwrights. His life is celebrated through the Wainwright Society, chaired by Cumbrian Tourism chairman and broadcaster Eric Robson.

41. Unique island: Walney Island, near Barrow, is the largest English island in the Irish Sea, said to be the windiest lowland site in England with rich nature, including the Walney Geranium, found only on the island. It also has a private airport, owned by BAE Systems.

42. Tyres: Carlisle’s Pirelli Tyre plant, opened in 1969, supplies tyres to Jaguar/Land Rover, Volkswagen/Audi, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo and Maserati. It’s a significant player in the county’s economy, employing about 850 people.

43. Carlisle United: Cumbria’s only full-time sports team, currently pushing for promotion from League Two. The club holds a remarkable place in sporting history when in 1999 goalkeeper Jimmy Glass scored the goal that kept the Blues in the Football League. That moment has been voted one of the greatest in English sporting history.

44. Owls: The World Owl Centre at Muncaster Castle has one of the finest collections of owls in the world. Conservation from there has supported many endangered species.

45. State management: Carlisle and the surrounding district has a unique place in British social history with all of its pubs taken under state control in 1916. Architect Harry Redfern specially designed a series of inns as part of efforts to curb heavy drinking among workers in the World War One munitions work at HM Factory Gretna.

46. Fishing: Ports at Maryport and Silloth are still home to trawlers, keeping a traditional industry alive. Maryport hosts trawler race every year, which makes for impressive scenes.

47. Francis Dunnery: The Egremont-born musician, singer-songwriter, record producer and record label owner has been a huge champion of county musicians. He was the frontman for prog-pop band It Bites, working with the band between 1982 and 1990, during which he co-wrote and sang their hit single Calling All The Heroes.

48. Auctions: Cumbria’s agricultural industry is backed by a string of auction marts that are at the centre of many rural communities. The village of Lazonby plays host to the spectacular annual Alston Moor sheep sale in which more than 20,000 lambs are regularly sold in a single day.

49. Hunter Davies: The Carlisle-born writer and journalist has told the life stories of legendary figures including the only authorised biography of The Beatles, Paul Gascoigne, Wayne Rooney and penned The Glory Game, a behind-the-scenes portrait of Tottenham Hotspur. He celebrates works about Cumbria in the Lakeland Book of the Year Awards.

50. Wrestling: As well as our own language, we have our own style of wrestling. Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling, competed at shows and sporting games all over the county. It’s a tradition stretching back more than 200 years and is keenly contested.

This list has been compiled for CN Group’s #proudcumbria publication to celebrate the people, places and events that make our county great.

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