Harrogate village fears demise of tug of war

Villagers from Hampsthwaite were out in force on New Year's Day braving the cold bright January sunshine for what they say might be their final annual village tug '˜o' war competition on the site where the event has been held for the past 40 years.

The winning New Year's Day tug of war team from Hampsthwaite. (Photograph by Simon Hill)

Since the 1980s, residents in the village have celebrated the start of the New Year with a traditional tug of war challenge. Taking to an often wet and muddy field just opposite the historic Hampsthwaite Parish church every New Year’s Day, the fundraising event pitches villagers from The Joiner’s Arms in Hampsthwaite against their neighbours from The Station Hotel in Birstwith for the traditional sport of Tug’O’ War.It is an event that attracts many people despite the often, freezing conditions and one that has raised a great deal of cash in the past for local charities.But this year, as villagers took up the challenge on January 1, they were aware that it could be for the last time. The venue for the annual event, known locally as ‘The Tug of War field’ has been proposed as the site of a new housing development. In future, if the proposed new houses are built the site would not be available for the popular event. The New Year Day's fundraising event was first organised by former local councillor Frank Bury and his son Mike and although now both deceased, their legacy continues with the generous support of these two popular village pubs.Originally villagers challenged US staff from RAF Menwith Hill to the Tug of War across the River Nidd. When the Menwith Hill air base became unable to form a team and as the unpredictability of the Nidd currents made the tournament too dangerous to be held across the river, organisers moved the challenge on to the nearby field and recruited challengers from the village of Birstwith.Taking place in the historic centre of Hampsthwaite village, the event this year brought out over 100 local adults and children to shout support for their respective teams. It was followed by a ’Pie and Peas’ lunch at the joiner’s Arms and a massive fundraising raffle that took most of the afternoon to draw.This year's challenge raised money for the Yorkshire air ambulance and the competition was won by the team from Hampsthwaite.

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Crowds watching the tug of war in Hampsthwaite. (Photograph by Simon Hill)
Crowds watching the tug of war in Hampsthwaite. (Photograph by Simon Hill)