Lake District - Ullswater Valley. Patterdale Dog Day. A Farming Community Event
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The history of Patterdale Dog Day

In 1901 three local men, Joe Bowman, Joe Wilkinson and J.R.R. Allen were returning one night from sheep clipping when their conversation turned to Sheep Dog Trials. Twenty-five years earlier, in 1876, the first Sheep Dog Trials in Britain had been held at Bala in Wales. Inspired by this event they decided to organise a similar event at Patterdale initially called ‘Ullswater Sheep Dog Trials’ and later, ‘Patterdale Dog Day’.

In those early days, late August would see a large number of horses and traps carrying farmers’ families, shepherds and dogs, coming over Kirkstone Pass, heading for Patterdale. They would often stop at the Inn on the top to let the horses get their wind and of course for refreshment for themselves. The takings on the very first day amounted to nineteen pounds three shillings and sixpence (£19 3s 6d or £19.62) and the committee was so delighted that it bought a bottle of whisky costing three shillings and sixpence (62p) to celebrate! It is noted in some minutes written in 1907 that a marquee could be hired for £1 15s (£1.75). We might expect to pay £250 now.

The oldest programme we have found dates back to 1938 and was priced at sixpence (2½p). In it Ullswater is described as ‘the English Lucerne’ after its similarity to the lake in Switzerland. The contents are much the same as in our current programme although now we don’t include beautiful glossy black and white pictures of our lovely valley. Some of the dog owners’ surnames still appear, as do many ever popular dog names. The prize money then was relatively as generous as it is now and attracted competitors from far and wide.

When looking through the 1951 edition, cost one shilling (5p), which was prefaced by a photograph of the head of Ullswater, I discovered that Wordsworth was said to have described the venue of the trials as ‘the prettiest field in England’. It probably is, being a natural arena with part of the mighty Helvellyn massif as its magnificent backdrop.

We have kept the show to the original format and content and, having resisted commercialisation, are proud of our claim to be a genuinely traditional Lakeland event.

This brief history of Patterdale Dog Day has been compiled with help from old programmes and minutes kindly supplied by John Allen.

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