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Saddleworth Rushcart Weekend
This event might suit those who seek entertainment, something peculiarly British, attractive countryside and the opportunity spend time amongst local people and to contribute to the local economy. Taking place over the second weekend following the 12th of August every year (which means that in some years it falls on the August Bank Holiday weekend), the festival is a recreation of the old custom of villages on the edge of Saddleworth Moor (of which Uppermill is easily the largest) taking a cart laden with rushes cut from the moor to the church to be strewn on the floor
It is more accurate to describe it as the revived Rushcart weekend, in that the old custom was previously associated with Wakes Weeks and died out following the First World War and was started again by the Saddleworth Morris Men in 1975. The 'cart is a hand cart piled with two tons of rushes which on the Saturday is pulled by Saddleworth Morris Men and guests through Uppermill, Greenfield, Delph and Dobcross before returning to Uppermill (a journey of just under 8 miles), and which on the Sunday is pulled to St Chad's church (just over three quarters of a mile - but mainly uphill) where, during the morning service, some rushes mixed with fragrant herbs are scattered on the church floor.
The 'cart has a 'jockey', the most senior Saddleworth Morris Man who has not had the honour, who rides atop throughout the weekend. He chooses a theme for the banner which decorates the front of the tower of rushes, which he makes himself and remains a secret to all until festivities commence on the Saturday morning. He distributes sweets to children as the cart passes.
At each village in which the 'cart stops, there are displays of dancing as well as on Sunday at the two pubs which are conveniently near to St Chad's church. Saddleworth Morris Men are supported quite literally by dancers from around the world - dancers from as far as Adelaide have participated - and the mixture of costumes merely adds to the spectacle. There are a number of eateries in Uppermill reviewed elsewhere on these pages, plus pubs in all the villages the 'cart visits (there are two breweries in the area - one located at one of the two pubs used on Sunday) and accommodation is available in Uppermill, Diggle and Delph, whilst the area is accessible by bus and train from Manchester.
The colour and vibrancy of the weekend make this suitable either in whole or in part for anyone to enjoy. And the cost? Well, besides travel, food, drink and accommodation costs - nothing, except whatever you are willing to donate or purchases of memorabilia to help to defray Saddleworth Morris Men's not inconsiderable costs for staging this annual event.