Friday, 30 April 2010

The Best of British

A calendar of Britain's most crazy but time-honoured festivals and events, from worm charming to dishcloth throwing, as per TTel.

Egg throwing

Winning Enjoy England's quirkiest events award this year was no yolking matter for the eggstroverts of one Lincolnshire village.
Swaton hosts a cracking, annual eggstravaganza that involves egg-catching, egg-and-spoon relays and machine-assisted egg-hurling – all for a good cause.
When: June 27
Where: Swaton, near Sleaford, Lincolnshire
Further information:

Worm charming

Fancy dress will be encouraged at the 29th International Festival of Worm Charming, where, inbetween maypole and morris dancing, participants scrabble around in a "secret" field, trying to envoke the ancient art.
Be warned though – any liquid poured on the ground must also be drunk to prove it won't harm the worms. Cider usually proves popular.
When: May 2
Where: Blackawton, Devon.
Further information:

Dwyle flunking

This pub game, where a soggy dishcloth is lobbed at a ring of players, traditionally takes place outside a tavern. It is a social highlight at the Lewes Arms in Sussex, where matches between pub regulars and the Lewes Operatic Society date back to the last century.

The dishcloth is fished from a bucket of stale beer with a stick, and then flung at someone in the circle. The doused person then takes his or her revenge as the thrower. 

When: August 29
Where: Lewes, Sussex.
Further information:

'Obby 'oss day

This strange celebration is rumoured to be the oldest dance festival in the country, possibly relating to a Celtic festival held in honour of the sun god Bel, who was thought to cause crops to grow and daylight hours to lengthen.
Inhabitants of Padstow dance to drums and accordions, and dress either in red or blue, depending on which 'Oss they support.
The Old 'Oss resembles a black horse and is prone to pulling women under its cape to portray a fertility rite. The Blue 'Oss represents peace.
When: May 1
Where: Padstow, Cornwall
Further information:


Visit The Bottle Inn in June and you could be enjoying some rather unusual bar snacks.
With its origins rooted in a "longest stinging nettle" competition – "If anybody beats that I'll eat it", someone once declared – this unusual event leaves entrants with unsightly black tongues but, thankfully, very few stings. Ale is on hand to wash down these particularly prickly mouthfuls.
When: June 19
Where: Marshwood, Dorset
Further information:

Haxey hood

Legend has it that this 700-year tradition began when Lady de Mowbray was out riding and a gust of wind blew off her hat. Some farm labourers set about retrieving it and she was so pleased that she named the person who handed it to her "Lord of the Hood". A man who had caught the hat but been too afraid to hand it to her was dubbed "The Fool".
On the Twelfth Night of Christmas the tussle is replayed, started by the Fool from a stone in front of Haxey Parish Church.

The Hood, a long leather cylinder, is thrown into the air to launch the proceedings. When it falls the participants try to rustle it out of the field and back to their favourite pub for a celebration and the honour of holding it for the coming year. The Lord of the Hood referees the match. 

When: January 6
Where: Haxey, north Lincolnshire
Further information:

Bog snorkelling

Held in Wales but attracting international competitors, this event appeals to those who like their sport a little bit dirty. Llanwrtyd Wells hosts not only a bog snorkelling triathlon but also a mind-boggling, world mountain bike bog snorkelling championship. The first can be an individual or team event, with two lengths of 60 yards spent swimming through filth. The second puts you deep in a 6ft bog on a specially adapted bike, with nothing but a mask and snorkel.
When: July 10 - 11
Where: Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales
Further information:

Cheese rolling

Synonymous with barmy British traditions, the Cooper's Hill event is now almost too popular for its own good, with 2010's competition cancelled after 15,000 people showed up in 2009.
The event, which dates back hundreds of years, sees crowds of participants chase a 7lb Double Gloucester cheese down a dangerously steep hill in a series of daredevil races. Broken limbs are not uncommon.
When: Last Monday in May
Where: Cooper's Hill, Gloucester
Further information:

Stilton rolling

A tamer, and somewhat less cheesy alternative, is the annual Stilton rolling held in the village of Stilton. Again, this tradition was the brainchild of a pub landlord who somehow fell on the idea midway through the 20th-century. A block of cheese-shaped wood is nudged along the road by single-sex teams who compete to be the first to push it over a finish line.
When: May 3
Where: Stilton, Cambridgeshire
Further information:

Shrovetide football

Every year locals take to the streets of Ashbourne to play an oversized football match where the entire town is the playing field. The game is thought to date from Elizabethan times. Those born on the north side of the river play against those from the south, with the two goals set three miles apart, where mill wheels once stood. To score, players must tap the ball three times against a marker board.
Shops board up their windows and cars are parked elsewhere as the resulting match becomes something of an unruly scrum. Only for the brave.
When: Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday
Where: Ashbourne, Derbyshire
Further information:


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