Last week saw the return of the annual Cumbrian ragwort pull after a two year absence due to Covid.
This is an ancient ceremony that has been depicted in cave paintings going back to the Middle Bronze Age.
The pull is supervised by Master Pullers and conducted by Junior Pullers. Junior Pullers are shadowed by apprentice pullers. Apprentices undergo a two year training program and have to take the Pullers test before becoming a certified Junior Puller.
There is a lot to think about. To use a fork or not, to use one hand or two, as well as an in-depth analysis of soil moisture content.
Each plant is inspected and a decision made on the correct method of pulling. There is a lot of pressure to make the right decision.
Junior Pullers who chose the incorrect method, pull too hard, break the stem and fall over, are demoted back to apprentice level and made to re-sit the Pullers test. Master Pullers who make the same mistake are banished from the Royal Order of Ragwort Pullers never to return.
Payment by the landowner has traditionally been a ring of Cumberland Sausage and a flagon of mead but more recently the mead has been replaced by a bottle of Jennings Cumberland Ale.
Ragwort pulling is, of course, a dangerous business. The plant is poisonous and the poison can be absorbed through the skin. In times gone by Pullers would die in their mid thirties from liver failure. Nowadays government regulations dictate that the correct Personal Protective Equipment must be worn.
Many thanks to my late great grandfather who entertained a young boy with tales of his adventures as a Master Puller.”
The author being washed down after a mornings pulling.”
Sue Loach – 28 Feb 2022″