FOUR sisters from South Lakeland are heading to London today (June 16) to start wrestling bouts in famous tourist areas.

The Hodgson sisters will wear full traditional regalia in a series of promotional events to highlight the first ever women’s world championship in Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling this summer at Ambleside Sports.

Their sporting day out is supported by the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) who see traditional sports as a key feature of its bid for World Heritage status, and by Virgin Trains who link London with the Lakes.

Tracy, 25, Hannah, 21, Connie, 20, and Rosie, nine, Hodgson will be accompanied by mum Wendy and dad Trevor, who is a former two-times world champion. The family lives in Dent.

The traditional sport, at which women were allowed to compete for the first time only ten years ago, will feature the world title event in the “all-weights” division at Ambleside Sports on July 28.

Like their male counterparts, women wrestlers will be expected to wear the traditional costume of long leggings with a singlet and elasticated centre-piece. Embroidered motifs are common but optional.

Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling is a key feature of the traditional sports fixtures throughout the Lake District each summer. Thought to have Norse or Viking origins, it was practised in the north long before football and cricket became popular games.

“We are very proud to be hosting the first world championship,” said Jak Hirst, the Ambleside Sports chairman and a former professional juggler.

“We have staged women’s events over the last few years but we are thrilled to have the world championship here in our 130th anniversary.”

Virgin Trains are supporting Ambleside Sports this year, and they have provided tickets for the Hodgson sisters’ visit to London.

John Hodgson, World Heritage Co-ordinator for the LDNPA, said: “Traditional sports, such as Cumbrian wrestling, are a key feature of the World Heritage bid as a rich cultural landscape."

The first Ambleside Sports featured wrestling along with the same events which are on the schedules today: fell running, track racing, track cycling and hound-trailing.

Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling has parallels elsewhere in Eastern Europe, in Iceland and in Brittany. In the UK, there are mixed events for juniors under 12, as happens in other sports, and then separate bouts for men and women. “We’ve had plenty of girls and women competing at Ambleside over the last few years,” said Mr Hirst.

“We all love it. We used to go with dad to the wrestling academy in Kendal,” said Connie, a sports coaching student. “It’s a quick and nimble sport. And it was something different to talk about at school.”

Roger Robson, of the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association, said that as with many traditional sports, the regulating body “was a bit backwards at coming forwards” but there had been progressive acceptance of the idea of women taking part.

Women competed in wrestling by default after the Second World War because there was no mention of gender in the CWWA rules drawn up in 1906. In 1991 the success of a girl wrestler led to claims that her success put off lads from competing, and all mixed wrestling was banned. The onus was then on venues to sponsor female wrestling in their programme and that has slowly grown as an expected part of each event.

Ambleside Traditional Lakeland Sports will be held at Rydal Park, Thursday July 28