Weird Britain: Complete Guide to Britain’s Quirky Events in 2012

Britain wouldn’t be the same without it’s wealth of quirky events, we’ve rounded up as many as we can think of, so if you fancy a spot of swamp football or perhaps think you could become the World Marble Champion then now’s your chance.

JANUARY


THE LOONY DOOK
When
: 1 January 2012
Where: Grand Parade starts at the Hawes Pier in South Queensferry, Scotland
Time: 11am
Web: www.theloonydook.co.uk

Celebrate the arrival of 2012 by taking part in the incredible Loony Dook, the annual splash in the River Forth in the shadow of the world-famous Forth Rail Bridge. Join in the Grand Parade and cheer-on the brave Loony Dookers as they make their way along Queensferry’s High Street to dook in the freezing Forth under the gaze of the iconic Forth Bridges. Over the past 25 years, thousands of people have taken the plunge at the Loony Dook.

HAXEY HOOD GAME
When:
 6 January 2012 (the twelfth day of Christmas)
Where: Haxey, near Epworth, North Lincolnshire
Time: Fool’s speech outside St Nicholas Church at 14.30 and Main Hood thrown at 15.30 on Hood Field, Cross Hill, Haxey, near Epworth.

Every January, the parish of Haxey goes a little crazy for the day. They play a mad game called the Haxey Hood and have been practicing this ancient tradition since the 14th Century. It’s the oldest local tradition in England.

To the spectator, this event is like a rugby scuffle, this is called the sway, in which a leather tube (that represents the hood) is pushed to 1 of 4 pubs where it remains until the following year’s game. It is a tradition that dates back to the 14th century when Lady de Mowbray, wife of landowner John De Mowbray, was out riding one day and her silk riding hood was blown away. Thirteen farm workers in the field rushed to help and chased the hood all over the field. It was finally caught by one of the farm workers, but being too shy to hand it back to the lady he gave it to one of the others to hand back to her. She thanked the farm worker who had returned the hood and said that he had acted like a Lord, whereas the worker who had actually caught the hood was a Fool. She was so impressed by this act of chivalry and the resulting chase that she donated 13 acres of land on condition that the chase for the hood would be re-enacted each year. This re-enactment over the centuries has become known as “The Haxey Hood”.

WHITTLESEY STRAW BEAR FESTIVAL
When:
 13 – 15 Jan 2012
Where: Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire
Time: 10.30 – 15.15
Web: www.strawbear.org.uk

Teddy bears have a place in most children’s bedrooms. However straw bears are a little more unusual. Once a year, at the Whittlesey Straw Bear Festival, visitors can see a real-life straw bear. He will be part of an elaborate parade around the town centre attended by a host of dancers and musicians including Morris Dance teams and sword dancers. The bear is actually a man covered from head to toe in a straw costume. During the 19th century, straw bears – men or boys clothed in a layer of straw – were a familiar sight on Plough Monday (The first Monday after 6 January). The straw bear is said to be a throwback to Pagan times. The bear dances to encourage crops to grow in the spring. It was an uncomfortable costume, with lengths of tightly twisted straw bands prepared and wound up the arms, legs and body of the man or boy who was chosen. Two sticks were fastened to the shoulders and met at a point over his head. Straw was then wound round them to form a cone above the ‘bear’s’ head. A tail was provided and a strong chain fastened around the armpits. The bear danced in front of houses and gifts of money or food or beer were given in return.

LERWICK UP HELLY AA

When: 13 – 15 Jan 2012
Where: Lewick, Shetland, Scotland
Time: 
Press times: 14:00 Walk the procession Route. Meet at the Galley Shed, St Sunniva Street, 15:00 Press Meeting in the Galley shed, 19:30 on the Hillhead information@uphellyaa.org
Web:
 www.uphellyaa.org

Up Helly Aa is a tradition that originated in the 1880s. This annual event in Shetland is Europe’s largest fire festival and involves a torchlit procession, the burning of a Viking longship and a ceilidh which lasts late into the night. The festival heralds the end of winter and the beginning of spring. The burning of the Viking galley also commemorates the way a Viking warrior was cremated: by being pushed out into the sea in his trusty longship. In addition to this main Up Helly AA, there are also smaller ones throughout Scotland, details of which can be found on the website.

FEBRUARY

ST IVES FEAST AND HURLING OF THE SILVER BALL
When:
 6 February 2012 (held on the first Monday after 3 February)
Where: Throughout the town of St Ives
Time: 10.00 – 17.00 at The Guildhall
Web: http://www.visitcornwall.com/things-to-do/whats-on/st-ives-feast-hurling-the-silver-ball-p505483

Hurling is one of the oldest forms of ball game and still takes place at St Ives in Cornwall on the first Monday after 3 February. The game is rather like rugby and the ball is made from apple-wood encased in sterling silver and weighs about 15 ounces (425g).

Taking place in one of Cornwall’s most popular seaside towns, watching the hurling is an intriguing insight into one of Cornwall’s most ancient traditions. Take a ring side seat near the beach and cheer for your favourite participant, some of whom dive into the chilly sea to escape with the ball.

Hurling the Silver Ball is one of Cornwall’s oldest customs dating back at least a thousand years. Of unknown origin, the game involves much physical rough and tumble as each side (traditionally the ‘countrymen’ and ‘townsmen’ of a particular parish) tries to keep possession of a cricket ball-sized ball made of apple wood coated in silver. These days, Cornish Hurling has all but disappeared, although it is still played once a year in St Ives and St Columb Major, near Newquay.

HUSKY RACING
When:
 18-19 February 2012
Where:
 Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire
Time: 10.00 – 14.00
Web: www.grimsthorpe.co.uk

The park land surrounding the house, built for a visit by Henry VIII in 1541, will host 400 dogs competing along a timed route, pulling sleds and their owners. The imposing country house sits amongst rolling Lincolnshire countryside surrounded by formal gardens, extensive woodland and a 50-acre lake, providing a stunning setting for the race. Takes place between 10am and 2pm over the weekend.

OLNEY PANCAKE RACE
When:
 21 February 2012 (shrove Tuesday)
Where: Market Place, Olney, Buckinghamshire MK46 4EF
Time: 11.55am race starts (family entertainment from 10am)
Email: olneypark@hotmail.co.uk
Web: www.visitbuckinghamshire.org/events/olney-pancake-race-p692671

The unique Olney Pancake Race literally stops traffic as energetic local ladies in traditional housewife attire (including skirt, apron and scarf), run through the streets of Olney. The 415- yard dash is run from The Bull Hotel in the Market Place to the Parish Church of St. Peter & St Paul in Church Lane. The race is started by the church warden at 11.55am using a large bronze ‘Pancake Bell.’ Pancakes are tossed at the start of the race and the winner is required to toss her pancake again at the finish. At the end of the race, the runners and townsfolk go into the Parish Church for the great Shriving Service. The race has been run since around 1445 and since 1950, the contest has been an international event between Olney and the town of Liberal, Kansas in America. The race is run on a timed basis and the winner is declared after times are compared through a transatlantic telephone call from Liberal to Olney.

ROYAL SHROVETIDE FOOTBALL
When:
 21-22 February 2012 (Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday)
Where: Ashbourne, Derbyshire
Time: 14.00
PR Contact: 
Mr M Betteridge 0044 (0)1335 342 083
Web:
 http://www.shrovetide.net/

Thought to date back to the 12th century, this is a ’free for all’ football game like no other, featuring the “Up’ards” (those born north of the Henmore river in Ashbourne) against the “Down’ards” (those born south of the river). The town closes for two days while the match is played. Each day the ball is ‘turned up’ at Shawcroft car park at 2pm, and the game and celebrations carry on all day, usually until 10pm. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales took part in the tradition in 2003.

MARCH

BRAE UP-HELLY-AA
When: 
March 2012
Where: Brae, Shetland Islands
Email: deborah.kerr@visitscotland.com 

Brae’s Up Helly Aa Viking Festival is the last one of the season, and is the last opportunity to enjoy the torch-lit procession and all night ceilidh.

WORLD POOH STICKS CHAMPIONSHIPS
When:
 25 March 2012
Where: Days Lock, Little Wittenham, Nr Abingdon, OX14 4RB
Web: www.pooh-sticks.com

When Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin first dropped a handful of sticks from a bridge into a stream and rushed to the other side to see which came under first, who would have imagined this would start an annual tradition? The 27th Annual World Pooh Sticks Championships organised by the Rotary Club of Oxford Spires is set to attract around 1000 – 2000 people. Individuals and teams of 6 compete in a knock-out style competition, with teams of six dropping different coloured sticks from each of the two bridges at the lock. The event is held in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and also Rotary charities.

APRIL

WORLD MARBLES CHAMPIONSHIPS
When:
 6 April 2012 (held every Good Friday)
Where: Greyhound Pub, Tinsley Green, Crawley, West Sussex
Time: 10.30 – 17.30

Marbles have been played in and around Tinsley Green for many hundreds of years. The tradition is said to date back to the time of Good Queen Bess when two men from Surrey and Sussex competed for the hand of a maiden from Tinsley, which is just on the border of the two counties. After being judged equal in all the major sports of the time such as archery and wrestling, one of them came up with the game of marbles and the tradition has continued ever since. The World Marble Championships date back to the 1930s. Some 20 teams from around world take part, and over the years, teams from Canada, the USA and Germany have taken part. The action is watched by hundreds of spectators. The game is played in a six-foot-diameter ring which is dusted with fine sand and set up in the Greyhound Pub car park. Some 49 marbles are then placed in the ring. There are six players in a team and each member has four marbles. The winner is the first team to knock 25 marbles out of the ring.

WORLD COAL CARRYING CHAMPIONSHIPS
When:
 9 April 2012 (held annually on Easter Monday)
Where: Royal Oak, Owl Lane, Gawthorpe, Ossett, West Yorkshire
Time: 12.00 noon
Web: www.gawthorpe.ndo.co.uk/coal.htm

The World Coal Carrying Contest is a test of stamina and muscle. It is held every Easter Monday and lifts the village of Gawthorpe out of obscurity and into the headlines. The race involves men carrying 50kg (one hundred weight) of coal over an uphill course close to a mile long starting at the Royal Oak, Owl Lane and finishing at the Maypole on the village green. The ladies race follows the same route as the men’s – ladies carry 20 kg of coal. The current world record holder is said to be David Jones of Meltham with a time of 4 mins 6 secs. The World Coal Carrying Contest dates back to 1963 when a local coal merchant and the president of the Maypole Committee were enjoying a pint together. A friend burst into the pub and bet that he could race them with a bag of coal on their backs. Not to let a good idea go to waste, the secretary of the Maypole Committee who was listening to the challenge, decided to set the race for Easter Monday.

BOTTLE KICKING AND HARE PIE SCRAMBLE
When:
 9 April 2012 (Easter Monday)
Where: Hallaton, Leicestershire
 Web: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adBjeZRTsGE /

On Easter Monday every year, villagers from Hallaton and Medbourne battle against each other to get possession of a small wooden keg referred to as the ‘bottle’ and carry it over their finish line, two steams a mile apart. There are various obstacles in to cross before reaching the streams including ditches, hedges and even barbed wire. The game is best of three with a new bottle being introduced after the previous one is won.

In 1770, the Rector of Hallaton was allotted a piece of land on condition that he provided two hare pies, two dozen loaves of bread and a quantity of ale, which had to be scrambled for in public. The custom still survives today. On Easter Monday, a hare pie is baked using a 20-inch square tin and is paraded in a procession through Hallaton village from the Fox Inn to St Michael’s Church. Slices are cut up, blessed and distributed at St Michael’s Church gates by the rector. Immediately behind the pie in the procession are the bottles that are used for the Bottle Kicking match. The ‘bottles’ are actually three small wooden kegs. Two contain beer and the remaining one is coloured red and white. The Bottle Kicking Parade moves through the village to the top of Hare Pie bank where the Bottle Kicking match takes place. The competitors are teams from Hallaton and nearby Medbourne who kick and man-handle the three barrels in an attempt to get them across respective boundaries. The goals are two streams a mile (1.6km) apart, and the aim is to kick two of the three bottles across the team’s respective stream. It is a tough contest with the teams having to get the barrels across numerous hedges, lanes, ditches and even barbed wire to reach their touchlines.

THE MALDON MUD RACE
When:
 29 April 2012
Where: Maldon, Essex
PR contact: info@maldonmudrace.com
Web: http://www.maldonmudrace.com/main.htm

Join 250 competitors in this mad scramble through the stinking, ink-black mud of the Blackwater Estuary in Essex. Entrants are advised to get a tetanus jab and tape their shoes to their feet. Not for the faint-hearted, then, but lots of fun for anyone watching.

MAY

WELL DRESSING
When:
 May through to end of September 2012
Where: All over Derbyshire – Tissington, Buxton, Buxworth
 Web: http://www.welldressing.com/

During the Well Dressing season in Derbyshire Springs or wells are intricately decorated. Using local plants and flowers clay-filled wooden trays are decorated before being mounted onto frames and placed by the well. Once known as ‘well flowering’, the tradition is thought to have originated in Pagan times and was banned for a time by the early Christians – but this is a Derbyshire custom that is here to stay.

Derbyshire hosts this ancient ceremony that has undergone a revival recently with many towns and villages enthusiastically re-establishing the craft. Well dressings are mosaic pictures, built up from natural materials such as flower petals, seeds, leaves and berries pressed into clay which is held in a wooden frame. The shape of the frames varies depending on the choice of theme – most are usually of a religious nature although recently, more modern themes have been adopted. When the well dressing is at the site of the well it is blessed by the local clergy. Dressings last about a week depending on the weather. Well dressing is thought to have originated from Pagan times, a ritual performed to give thanks for the supply of fresh water. Another school of thought claims that the Romans introduced the custom into Britain and another connects the celebration with various outbreaks of plague.

ELY‘S EEL DAY
When:
 5 May 2012
Where: Jubilee Gardens, Ely, Cambs
Time:
 11.00 – 16.00
Web: www.visitely.org.uk

This slithery celebration brings to life the city’s eel traditions with eel tasting, folklore and historical entertainment and displays. The city of Ely is famous for its eels – once part of the local staple diet. These watery creatures are commemorated in May with a day of activities. Look out for the procession with ‘Ellie the Eel’. It’s the annual festival where the good folk of Ely celebrate the humble eel – that slipperiest of fish that gave the city its name!

The festival starts with a procession through the city headed up by Ellie the Eel – a giant version of the snake-like fish created by local school children.
Activities include eel tasting, folk music, pottery making workshops, music and dancing, Viking re-enactments, historical displays, games, craft and food stalls. And, of course – there will be the highly contested eel throwing competition.

STILTON CHEESE ROLLING CHAMPIONSHIP
When:
 7 May 2012 (tbc)
Where: Stilton, near Peterborough
Web: www.stilton.org/about_rolling.html

For something a bit different cheer on the teams as they roll the wooden cheeses down the High Street in Stilton, nr. Peterborough. It celebrates the strong connection with the village and the creamy cheese. Cheese Rolling has become an annual event in Stilton and every May Day hundreds of villagers and visitors make their way to the main street to watch the teams battling for the honour of being called the ‘Stilton Cheese Rolling Champions’.

CHEESE ROLLING
When:
 28 May 2012, Bank Holiday Monday (always held on the second Bank Holiday Monday in May)
Where: Coopers Hill, Brockworth, Gloucestershire
Time: From 12.00
Web: www.cheese-rolling.co.uk

A passion for cheese is a must for this annual event, which involves daredevils hurling themselves down the steep, grassy slopes of Coopers Hill, near Gloucester, in pursuit of Double Gloucester cheeses. There are downhill races throughout the afternoon including ones for men and for women. The race starts with the master of ceremonies rolling a 7- 8 lb (4kg) Double Gloucester cheese down the hill. Dozens of competitors run, roll and somersault down the hill after it. It’s impossible not to fall over due to the rough uneven slope with a 1:2 gradient. The winners take home the cheeses as well as a few cuts and bruises.

The event is very popular with international competitors, and nothing deters them – hot, cold, wind, wet or any other combination of British weather – in fact it all adds to the sense of spectacle. Hundreds of people gather to watch this unique event, which dates back to medieval times. Common theories about the origin of cheese rolling include the idea that it began as a pan festival celebrating the onset of summer, while others maintain the festival is related to ancient fertility rights and hopes for a successful harvest.

NURDLING
When:
 28 May 2012
Where: The Jackson Stops Inn, Stretton
Contact: 
0044 1780 410 237 pressoffice@cumbriatourism.org

Every late May bank holiday The Jackson Stops Inn at Stretton plays host to the World Nurdling Championships, where contestants hurl 13 old pennies into a hole drilled into the seat of an oaken settle. The traditional game of Nurdling dates back to the Middle Ages. The current ‘Best Tosser’ is Don Bentley.

JUNE

ROBERT DOVER’S COTSWOLD OLIMPICKS (SHIN KICKING)
When:
 1 June 2012
Where: Dover’s Hill, near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire
Time: 14.00 – 00.00
Web: www.olimpickgames.co.uk

The Cotswold Olimpicks (Olympics) were started by a local barrister Captain Robert Dover in 1612 at Dover’s Hill, above Chipping Campden. The annual event attracts thousands of spectators and features some well-known countryside games such as tug-of-war, obstacle races and wrestling as well as a few bizarre ones – the highlight being shin-kicking. The shin-kicking competition involves two contestants who first fill their trouser legs with straw to help reduce the pain. The players then hold arms and kick each other using steel toe- capped boots until one of the contestants is so bruised that he cannot stand the pain and gives in. The festivities close with a huge bonfire and firework display followed by a torchlight procession to the town square of Chipping Campden where Morris dancing and other entertainment takes place.
The Olimpicks will be 400 years old when London hosts the 2012 Olympics .

THE HUNTING OF THE EARL OF RONE
When:
 1-4 June 2012
Where: Coombe Martin, North Devon
Web: http://earl-of-rone.org.uk/

If you’re in Devon over the Spring Bank Holiday in May head to the village of Combe Martin and one of the region’s oldest and oddest customs. Over 4 days, allegorical characters search for the Earl of Rone, finally finding him on the Monday night. He is then paraded through the streets sitting backwards on a donkey, ‘shot’, knocked off his mount and finally thrown into the sea.

TETBURY WOOL SACK RACE
When:
 4 June 2012,
Where:
 Tetbury, (On Gumstool Hill between The Crown Inn and Royal Oak pub)
Time: 10.00 – 14.00
Web: www.tetburywoolsack.co.uk

The Tetbury Wool Sack Race is a gruelling competition run between two pubs in Tetbury – The Crown Inn and the Royal Oak. The race has been given world record status and involves competitors running in pairs and fours up steep Gumstool Hill through the village of Tetbury carrying a large sack of wool. Men carry a 60lb sack on their backs and women carry a 35lb sack. The gradient in parts is 1:4, so it’s heavy going for even the fittest competitor.
The event attracts puzzled spectators from across the world and raises money for local charities. The race reflects the history of the area, when many of the Cotswold towns, including Tetbury, were noted wool towns. It’s thought the race originally started when local drovers – egged on by drink and wanting to impress the ladies – raced each other uphill with heavy woolsacks.

MAN v HORSE RACE
When: 
June 2012 (exact date tbc)
Where: The race starts from the square in Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys (the smallest town in Britain) at 11.00 a.m. and finishes at approximately 1.00 p.m. at the Victoria Wells Forest Log cabins.
Web: www.green-events.co.uk

The race is run over 22 miles of mixed and very hilly terrain, including farm tracks, bridle paths, forestry roads and open moorland. Up to 500 entrants compete each year. The Man v Horse Race was the brainchild of local man, Gordon Green, at the time when he was landlord of Neuadd Arms, after a discussion over a pint about the relative merits of man and horse.

The race has been run each year since, continually attaining new levels of entry and challenges. It took 25 years before a man finally beat a horse, when in 2004 Huw Lobb won in two hours and five minutes, finishing two minutes before the fastest horse

SWAMP SOCCER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
When: 
23-24 June 2012
Where: Inverness, Scotland
Email: info@swampsoccer.co.uk
Web: www.swampsoccer.co.uk 

The rules of swamp soccer are similar to regular football, with a number of exceptions. Each team has just six players (a goalkeeper & five outfield players) with unlimited substitutions. Games last for 24 minutes in total (12 minutes each way)…and fancy dress is allowed!

THE WORLD EGG THROWING COMPETITION
When:
 24 June 2012
Where: Takes place between Helpringham and Swaton on the B1394 which joins the A52 and A17 Roads, Halfway between Boston and Grantham in Lincolnshire, NG34 0RF
Website: www.eggthrowing.com and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yl3pN3lRZa0

Contestants have to construct a gravity-powered egg-hurling device to launch an egg to a waiting team member. To achieve points the team member must either catch the egg unbroken or get struck by the egg. As the egg can be traveling at speeds of up to 120 mph this is particularly tricky and relies upon a lob technique to reduce velocity. Distances to be achieved start at 30 meters but can be extended up to 150 in the knock out competition.

Another activity that takes place on the day is the Russian Egg Roulette where two participants select from five hard boiled eggs and one raw egg – and they have to smash them on to their own foreheads. Event competitions range from basic throwing and catching to relays, egg roulette and building your own egg-hurling device to propel your egg, unbroken to a team member in order to gain points.

JULY

BRITISH LAWNMOWER WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
When:
 July 2012 (exact date tbc)
Where: Heddington & Stockley Steam Rally,Calne, Wiltshire
Web: http://www.blmra.co.uk/

Ready, steady, Mow! Lawn mower racing was started back in 1973 by an Irishman called Jim Gavin. Like many other motor sports there are several categories that you can compete in and events take place up and down the country throughout the year.

WORLD MOUNTAIN BIKE BOG SNORKELLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
When:
 July 2012 (exact date tbc)
Where: Waen Rhydd peat bog, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, mid Wales
Email: llanwrtydtouristinformation@yahoo.co.uk
Web: www.green-events.co.uk

The World Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling Championships are held in Waen Rhydd peat bog and attract about 40 riders. Started up by local man Gordon Green in 1998, competitors must cycle two lengths of a six-foot deep trench which is 45 yards long on a special lead-weighted bike. They must also wear a weighted backpack. The winner takes home a glass engraved goblet.

WORLD PEA SHOOTING CHAMPIONSHIPS
When:
 14 July 2012
Where: Village Green, Witcham, Cambridgeshire
Time: 12.00 – 17.00
Web: www.eastcambs.gov.uk/tourism

This international event brings challengers from as far as New Zealand and the USA to compete for the World Pea Shooting trophy. Accuracy, not distance, is the aim of this competition, with contestants shooting a pea through a 12-inch tube, 12 feet towards a 12-inch target. Competition is fierce and laser-guided shooters for specialists are not uncommon, taking pea shooting into the 21st Century. Pea shooters and peas can be bought at the event.

WORLD SNAIL RACING CHAMPIONSHIPS
When:
 21July 2012
Where: The Cricket Field, Lynn Road, Congham, Norfolk
Time: From 14.00
Email: info@snailracing.net
Web: www.snailracing.net

Ready, Steady, Slow! For more than 25 years, the World Snail Racing Championships have been held at Congham, near King’s Lynn, in Norfolk. More than 300 snails slug it out for the title of ‘Fastest Snail in the World’ at the World Snail Racing Championships. Anyone with a snail can enter and a number of heats are held before the grand final. The winner receives a silver tankard stuffed with lettuce. The world record is held by a snail called Archie who completed the 13-inch course (set up on top of a table) in two minutes.

AUGUST

THE WORLD HEN RACING CHAMPIONSHIPS

When: 5 August 2012
Where: Barley Mow Inn, Bonsall, Derbyshire
Web: http://www.world-championship-hen-racing.com/

The World Hen Racing Championships have brought an entire new meaning to “Chicken Run” – not to mention some egg-stra egg-citement to the Peak District. Visitors to the Barley Mow pub in the village of Bonsall each August are able to catch sight of chickens racing along a 30-foot track, under strict world championship regulations.

WORLD PIPE BAND CHAMPIONSHIP
When: 
11 August 2012
Where: Glasgow Green, Greendyke Street, Glasgow
Time: 10 am onwards – throughout the day

The World Pipe Band Championships have been associated with Glasgow since 1948 and are a celebration of the very best of Scottish music, culture and dance. The event will see over 8,000 pipers and drummers from across the globe competing at Glasgow Green for the coveted title of World Champions 2012.

KETTLEWELL SCARECROW FESTIVAL
When:
 11-19 August 2012
Where: Kettlewell, Yorkshire Dales
 Web: http://www.kettlewellscarecrowfestival.co.uk/

What started of as a one off fund raising event in 1998 is now an annual event which see the village of Kettlewell come to life with scarecrows. Well over a hundred scarescrows are made and exhibited by the village residents throughout the festival with prizes awarded for the best. There are both traditional looking models and those based on popular TV characters with some trails and treasure hunts thrown in for fun part.

INTERNATIONAL WORTHING BIRDMAN
When:
 18-19 August 2012
Where: Worthing Pier
Time:
 Early afternoon onwards
Web: www.worthingbirdman.co.uk

The Birdman is a flight competition for human-powered flying machines held each summer in the picturesque seaside resort of Worthing on England’s south coast. Many flyers take part to raise money for charities; others design complex machines to aim for the distance prizes. A substantial prize of £30,000 is offered for the furthest flight in excess of the challenge distance of 100 metres. The event attracts contestants from all over the world. The Birdman competition started in 1971 along the coast in Selsey and then spent 29 years in Bognor Regis before relocating to Worthing in 2008.

RACE THE TRAIN
When: 
18 August 2012
Where: Talyllyn Railway, Tywyn
Email: info@racethetrain.com
Web: www.racethetrain.co.uk 

Race the Train event is a popular contest between man and machine. The race takes place alongside, as far as practicable, the route taken by the Talyllyn Railway on its journey to Abergynolwyn and back. In order to do this, all courses use a mixture of public roads, lanes, unmetalled roads, tracks, agricultural land, and rough grazing pastures. In the case of the Main Races (approximately 14.75 miles long) and 10km races, the route is much tougher as it crosses the faces of the hillsides, ascends and descends quite steep terrain and runs on narrow footpaths with little chance of overtaking. The terrain varies all the time and can be very wet and muddy in places, the routes also involve some steep hills. Often the train, or for many runners the track, is just over the fence and in many places if you coincide with the train any family or friends on the train will be able to shout encouragement.

ISLE OF WIGHT GARLIC FESTIVAL
When:
 18-19 August 2012
Where: Newchurch, Isle of Wight
 Web: www.garlic-festival.co.uk/

Garlic ice cream, jelly beans, fudge and beer are just some of the unusual garlic-based produce that can be sampled at the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival in Newchurch. The Garlic Marquee features the Isle of Wight’s ‘Golden Clove’ including the popular oak-smoked variety. There are over 250 stalls and many tempting garlic-flavoured products for visitors to try including banana and garlic, and rhubarb and garlic pickles and chutneys, garlic mussels and other seafood, sausages and bread. The festival attracts 25,000 people and is a two-day event organised by the Newchurch Parish Sports and Community Association. The idea for the festival came about after a visit to the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California and as garlic is grown locally in Newchurch, it was felt a festival to celebrate the garlic harvest was an innovative idea.

VICTORIAN FESTIVAL
When
: August 2012 (exact date tbc)
Where: Llandrindod Wells
Email: info@victorianfestival.co.uk
Web: www.victorianfestival.co.uk 

This popular festival is going from strength to strength. As Llandrindod was a thriving spa resort in the Victorian era it seemed natural to base the festival on the Victorian theme. Horses and carriages, Victorian window displays, townspeople and some visitors sporting a whole range of appropriate costumes help to create an atmosphere, the effect of which is nothing short of miraculous. At the end of the nine days, the proceedings are closed in the grandest of manners with the moving torchlight procession and fireworks display over the lake – a spectacle not to be missed.

WORLD TOE WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIP
When:
 25 August 2012
Where: Bentley Brook Inn, Fenny Bentley, Ashbourne, Derbyshire, DE6 1LF
Time: Wrestling begins at 13.00. £2.50 to enter; free to watch
Web: www.bentleybrookinn.co.uk/page14.html

Going way back to 1976, the World Toe Wrestling Championship started at a pub in Wetton, Derbyshire UK. The locals of ‘Ye Olde Royal Oak Inn’ thought it would be a great idea to hold a toe wrestling competition, where the contestants lock their big toes together, and attempt to force their opponent’s foot to the ground. The organisers have big intentions for the sport, and applied in 1997 for its inclusion in the Olympic Games. Unfortunately for crazy sports fans it was not accepted.

The Bentley Brook Inn in Derbyshire hosts the Ben & Jerry’s World Toe Wrestling Championship – a feast of foot foolery, bad wrestling outfits and toeriffically treacherous puns. All proceeds from the event go to the Derbyshire charity When You Wish Upon a Star.

CUMBERLAND WRESTLING (GRASMERE LAKELAND SPORTS AND SHOW)
When:
 26 August 2012
Where: Show Field, Grasmere, Cumbria
Web: www.grasmere.com/events.htm and www.grasmeresportsandshow.co.uk/

Grasmere hosts the largest of the traditional Lakeland sport meetings, featuring Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling, hound trails (where trained hounds race after the scent of aniseed over the fells), mountain-bike races and fell races, including the English Hill Championship. There are also events, trade, crafts and antiques stands, refreshments and stalls.

WORLD BOG SNORKELLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
When: 
27 August 2012
Start time: 11am (the event finishes at nightfall)
Where: Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys
Web: www.green-events.co.uk

The World Bog Snorkelling Championships is an international sporting event which takes place annually on August Bank Holiday Monday in Waen Rhydd peat bog on the outskirts of the smallest town in Britain – Llanwrtyd Wells in Powys, Mid Wales. The aim of the championships is to swim two lengths (about 115 metres) of a peaty, murky trench, which has been dug out of the Waen Rhydd peat bog, in the quickest time possible. Competitors wear snorkels and flippers. Wet suits are optional but strongly recommended. Snorkelling across the smelly and dirty bog is popular with hardy individuals from all over the world. Competitors come from as far afield as Australia, America and Europe as well as from Britain for the pleasure of taking part. The snorkeller with the fastest time wins a small cash prize. Organised by ‘Green Events’, the novel event was originally thought up by a local pub landlord Gordon Green in 1986 in a bid to boost tourism to the area.

THE WORLD GRAVY WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
When:
 27 August 2012
Where: The Rose & Bowl Inn, Bacup, Rossendale.
Time: 11:30 – 15.00
 Web: www.worldgravywrestling.com

This saucy event takes places as part of the Pennine Lancashire Festival of Food & Culture and celebrates its 5th anniversary in 2012. The Gravy Wrestling takes place on the second Bank Holiday Monday in August. The teams competing for the title slip and slide about in luke-warm gravy. Team members win points for pinning the opposition down in the gravy.

This event was started in 2007 and brings out the crowds in force to laugh at the proceedings, while TV cameras and the press often record the event for audiences all over the world from Australia to America and Europe to the Far East. The winners will receive the glittering trophy and wallow in fame – if not fortune.

FOOTBALL IN THE RIVER
When:
 27 August 2012
Where: The River Windrush, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cotswolds
Time: Fete from 11.00. Kick-Off at 16.00
Web: www.cotswolds.com

This event sees two teams of six from Bourton Rovers Football Club play a 30 minute football match in the usually calm waters of the River Windrush. Goalposts are set up in the river and players attempt to score as many goals as possible, whilst getting all spectators as wet as possible in the process. This event has been taking place for over 100 years and attracts hundreds of spectators.

SEPTEMBER

THE BRAEMAR GATHERING 2012 (HIGHLAND GAMES)

When: 1 September 2012
Where: The Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park, Royal Deeside, Aberdeen
PR Contact: Craig Nisbet , Braemar gathering Press Secretary, 0044 (0) 1334 473903
braemarpress@btinternet.com
Web: www.braemargathering.org 

Enjoy the skills of the pipers and Highland dancers and the stamina of the hill runners as well as the International athletes taking part in the heavy events. Sample contemporary Scotland with live music, top-quality arts and crafts, and the best local food and drink.

DOGGETT’S COAT AND BADGE RACE
When:
 4 September – Special Diamond Jubilee Race (usually held in July)
Where: River Thames, London Dock to London Bridge
Web: http://www.pla.co.uk/display_fixedpage.cfm/id/163

Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race started in 1715 by Irish actor and comedian Thomas Doggett in honour of King George I’s accession to the throne. It is the oldest single sculling race in the world and is the oldest organised race in English history. In order that the race be continued, Doggett bequeathed money to the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers who still organise it. In his legacy, Doggett provided for prizes, including a splendid red coat and silver badge, which is awarded to the champion oarsman. The winner is especially fitted for the Doggett livery. The coat is a reddish orange colour and is tight-waisted, full-skirted and buttoned down the front. When the coat and silver badge have been made for the winner, he attends a colourful ceremony dating back many years at Fishmongers’ Hall at London Bridge. He enters the banqueting room to a fanfare of trumpets and passes a guard of honour of previous winners who are also wearing their Doggett’s livery. The course covers just over four and three quarter miles (7.24 km) and is only open to young watermen or women under the age of 26 on the day of the race. The race is watched by crowds of people on London’s bridges as well as from boats moored along the route. Some 15-20 boats also follow the race down the Thames.

WORLD BLACK PUDDING THROWING CHAMPIONSHIPS
When:
 9 September 2012 (tbc)
Where: Royal Oak, Bridge Street, Ramsbottom, Lancashire

Black Pudding is a type of sausage made from congealed pigs’ blood with spices and lumps of fat, wrapped in a length of intestine – the dish is more appealing than the description suggests! The town of Bury in Lancashire is famous for the production of this regional delicacy along with tripe (cow’s stomach) and elder (steamed cows’ udder). The aim of the Black Pudding Throwing Championships is to throw a black pudding that has been ‘swaddled’ or wrapped in a pair of ladies tights at a collection of Yorkshire puddings on a plinth 20 feet up a tower built in the middle of the main street in Ramsbottom. Whoever knocks down the most wins!


EGREMONT CRAB FAIR AND SPORTS (WORLD GURNING CHAMPIONSHIPS)
When:
 15 September 2012 (always held on the 3rd Saturday in September)
Where: Baybarrow Sports Field, Orgill, Egremont, Cumbria
Time: The World Gurning Championships start at 18.00
steve@egremontcrabfair.com
Web:
 www.egremontcrabfair.com/

The town of Egremont in Cumbria celebrates crab apple time with a unique day of quirky events that are topped off with the World Gurning Championships. Contestants put their heads through a horse collar and have a set time in which to contort their faces in the scariest, most grotesque, silliest expression possible. False teeth may be left in, taken out or turned upside down if desired. The person who gets the most applause for their ugly face wins! The event attracts camera crews from all over the world. The Egremont Crab Fair dates back to 1267 to celebrate the time when the local Lord of the Manor wheeled a cart of crab apples through the village of Egremont as a goodwill gesture to the poor. Crab apples have a sharp taste and it is said the gurning competition originates from the faces the locals made when they bit into the sharp apples.

WORLD STONE SKIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS 
When: 
23 September 2012
Where: Easdale Island, near Isle of Mull, Scotland
Email: kirsty.innes@visitscotland.com
Web: www.stoneskimming.com 

The championships are held every year on the last Sunday in September. Anyone of any age and any level of skill can enter. Each competitor is allowed 3 skims using specially selected Easdale slate skimming stones.

For a skim to qualify the stone must bounce at least three times – it is then judged on the distance achieved before it sinks.

The World Stone Skimming Championships were launched in 1983 by Albert Baker, and then lay fallow until they were resurrected in 1997 by the Eilean Eisdeal (Easdale Island Trust) as a fundraising event. Contestants hail from around the world and the championships now attract over 200 participants and many spectators. Anyone of any age and any level of skill can enter the championships.

HARVEST FESTIVAL OF THE PEARLY KINGS AND QUEENS
When:
 30 September 2012
Where: Parade starts at Guildhall Yard, London
Time: 13.00
Web: www.pearlysociety.co.uk

Every year in October, the Cockney Pearly Kings and Queens gather in London for a harvest thanksgiving festival, dressed in their traditional costumes of suits, dresses and hats. The elaborate outfits can have as many as 30,000 buttons sewn onto them and can weigh as much as 30 kg or more. The festival begins with a procession of the Pearly princesses who take fruit and vegetable produce to the church as thanks offerings. The tradition of the Pearly Kings and Queens can be traced to London’s street traders who used to elect representatives, known as ‘Kings’ in order to defend themselves against competitors and the police. The tradition of sewing pearls onto their clothes can be traced to 1875 when an orphan boy called Henry Croft wanted to help the poor of London. To attract attention to his charitable work, he made himself an entire suit covered in pearl buttons. He died in 1930 but his relations carry on the tradition of dressing in pearl embroidered outfits with stars, moons, suns, flowers and mystic symbols on them.

OCTOBER

SPALDING PUMPKIN PARADE
When:
 October 2012 (exact date tbc)
Where: Spalding, Lincolnshire
Web: www.pumpkinparade.co.uk

The Spalding Pumpkin Parade celebrates the regions pride in being the home of Europe’s biggest pumpkin grower.The parade is very much a family affair with attractions that cater for all ages. This year will be bigger than ever with live music, children’s fancy dress, a fun fair, various market stalls and the pumpkin parade led by the infamous pumpkin coach.

GOLDEN SPURTLE WORLD PORRIDGE MAKING CHAMPIONSHIPS
When:
 7 October 2012
Where: Carrbridge, Inverness, Scottish Highlands
Web: http://www.goldenspurtle.com/

The annual World Porridge Making Championship is followed with interest by connoisseurs of Scotland’s national dish across the world. Each competitor is required to produce at least 1 pint (200ml) of porridge which is to be divided into three portions for the judges to taste. The championship title is awarded to the competitor producing the best traditional porridge, made from oatmeal (pinhead, coarse, medium or fine). The event includes a pipe band, cookery demonstrations and product tastings.

WORLD CONKER CHAMPIONSHIPS
When:
 14 October 2012
Where: Village Green, Ashton, near Oundle, Peterborough
Time: 10.30 – 15.00
Web: www.worldconkerchampionships.com

The game of conkers has been a popular pastime of British schoolchildren for decades. The rules are simple. Each player is given a conker attached to a piece of string and takes turns in trying to break their opponent’s nut using a swinging motion. The World Conker Championships are held on the village green in Ashton, Peterborough and attract over 300 competitors attempting to become the King or Queen of conkers. There are various categories for the knockout competition – ladies, men, teenagers and children. People can enter as part of a team of four or as individuals. The world tournament came about after a group of local friends had to cancel their annual fishing trip one year. While in the bar, they saw conkers falling onto the village green and went out and had a game. Since 1965, the championships have raised over £300,000 to help various charities for the blind.

THE APPLE FESTIVAL
When:
 October 2012 (exact date tbc)
Where: The Parish Green, Ely Cathedral
Time: 10.00- 16.00
PR Contact:
 Aileen Sharp, Tourist Information Centre, 0044 (0) 1353 662062
aileen.sharp@eastcambs.gov.uk
Web: www.elycathedral.orghttp://visitely.eastcambs.gov.uk/events/whats-on

A celebration of the great English apple with a variety of apple related food, drink and wares on sale. The event also features a wide range of apple games, competitions and activities.

NOVEMBER

CARRYING THE TAR BARRELS

When: 5 November 2012
Where:
 Town centre, Ottery St Mary, Devon
Time: Starts 16.00
info@otterytourism.org.uk
Web: www.otterytarbarrels.co.uk

On Guy Fawkes Night, there is the ritual of carrying the blazing tar barrels, which dates back to 1688. Men carry the flaming barrels on their shoulders until the weight or heat becomes too much for them and another person takes over. This carries on until the barrels start to break up and then they are allowed to burn out. Preparation of the barrels and coating them with tar starts early in the year and some can weigh over 50 pounds (22.68 kg).

A gigantic bonfire over 30 feet (10 metres) high and crowned with Guy Fawkes himself forms an impressive background to the occasion together with a fairground and many other attractions.

BRIDGWATER GUY FAWKES CARNIVAL
When: 5 November 2012
Where: Bridgwater, Somerset
Time: 19.00
Web: www.bridgwatercarnival.org.uk

The procession takes place after dark and consists of over 80 brilliantly lit floats, with some containing 30,000 light bulbs. There are two different types of float – the ‘Tableaux’, in which the actors must stand completely still and silent until the procession is over and the ‘Features’ which involves non-stop music and dancing. When the procession ends at around 10pm there is a Squibbing Display. A long wooden pole is shouldered by various participants to which a ‘Bridgewater Squib’ is attached. These are fireworks that are especially-made for the town and which burn with very high fountains of fire. The carnival is first held in Bridgwater and then the floats travel to the neighbouring towns and villages during the week.

BIGGEST LIAR IN THE WORLD COMPETITION
When:
 November 2012 (exact date tbc)
Where: Bridge Inn, Stanton Bridge, Holmrook, Cumbria
Time: 19.00 (ticket only)
Web: www.santonbridgeinn.com/liar/index.html

The World’s Biggest Liar Competition is a very popular contest to find the best ‘tall-storyteller’ and to award the title of ‘The Biggest Liar in the World.’ The ever-popular contest began in 1974 and continues to attract media attention from around the globe. Contestants travel great distances to pit their oral skills against an elite field of fibbers. There aren’t many rules to the competition, however politicians and lawyers aren’t welcome! Contestants must tell their 5-10 minute tall tales in front of the judges and the audience. Subjects vary from those based in reality, to being very silly and downright daft! In recent years the audience has learned facts about how the Lake District was formed – not from the ice age or volcanic action – but by large moles and eels. There are also tales of mermaids and kings and of the Pope water-skiing on the back of the QEII! The event is held in memory of Will Ritson, a Cumbrian publican in the 19th century with a gift for telling tall stories.

DECEMBER

THE GREAT CHRISTMAS PUDDING RACE
When:
 December 2012 (exact date tbc)
Where: West Piazza, Covent Garden, London
Web: www.xmaspuddingrace.org.uk/

London’s zany, wet and wild Great Christmas Pudding Race attracts around 150 contestants each year. The race has taken place in Covent Garden every December since 1980. Teams from schools or companies– aged from 14 to 70 – race around a 150-metre course balancing a Christmas pudding on a flimsy paper plate. They have to navigate two slippery inflatables, balloons filled with flour, jets of foam and limbo poles. To complicate things even further, they do it all in fancy dress. Past entrants have included a team of nuns, a caterpillar, a Womble and a Smurf! The race has become part of London’s Christmas events calendar and raises money for Cancer Research UK.

THE GREAT CHRISTMAS PUDDING RACE – Brighton
When: December, 2012 (exact date tbc)
Where: Bartholomew Square, Brighton

One of the wackiest races you’ll ever see; the Pudding Race will raise money for the Martlets Hospice and Cancer Research UK.
The race is a challenge of dexterity, balance, speed and general silliness. You’ll be balancing your pudding on a tray whilst negotiating a perilous obstacle course. You’ll need to get together a team of seven people. The challenge will be staying on your feet, with your pudding. Fitness is not a requirement!

MALDON MUD RACE
When:
 December 2012 (exact date tbc) over the Christmas and New Year holidays. The date and time will depend on the tides.
Where: Promenade Park, Maldon, Essex
Web: www.maldonmudrace.com/main.htm

Competitors get down and dirty at the Maldon Mud Race – where competitors race across the sticky River Blackwater all in aid of charity. The Mud Race is a sponsored event organised by the Rotary Club of Maldon. Competitors can choose their own charity for half the money they raise, the other half goes to the local community charities picked by the Rotary club. Competitors from all over the world are welcomed.

UPPIES AND DOONIES – THE BA’
When:
 25 December 2012, Christmas Day
Where: Kirkwall, Orkney Islands
Time: 13.00 Mercat Cross on the Kirk Green opposite the Cathedral
Email: charles.tait@zetnet.co.uk
Web: www.bagame.com

On Christmas Eve, shopkeepers along Kirkwall’s winding streets barricade doors and windows in preparation for the next day’s traditional Ba’ game. It is a game of mass football played with a ba’ – which is a hand-made cork-filled leather ball. The boys and men of the town are designated ‘Uppies’ and ‘Doonies’ – an affiliation that originally depended upon the place of birth. The aim of the game is to carry the ba’ to their own territories at the opposite ends of Kirkwall. The Ba’ is awarded after the game to a player in the winning side who has been a notable participant over a number of years.

BOXING DAY FLOUR AND SOOT MASSACRE
When:
 26 December 2012
Where: Waltham Cross Playing Fields, London
Web:
 www.freewebs.com/bakersandsweeps/boxingday.htm

The Bakers and Sweeps football match is actually run by a charity rather than the council (although the mayor is required/requested to play)
The highlight of the Bakers and Sweeps calender is without doubt the Boxing Day Charity football match, although they use the term “football” in its loosest sense.

The match is played on a football pitch with a 9ft inflatable ball but it’s safe to say that’s where the similarity ends! The rules of the game are simple…..there are none!

If you’re holding the ball, then you become the ball, and are treated as such. In which case you’d better run!! Even the crowd isn’t safe!
Sometimes it’s necessary for the teams to engage in medieval duels to settle century long arguments and the game ends when the referee feels like it or when he’s tired of being covered in flour and soot. The winners are…well…who cares who wins most of the time they lose count anyway!!

FLAMING BARRELS
When:
 31 December 2012, New Year’s Eve
Where: Allendale, Northumberland
Time: 23.30 to Midnight
Web: www.northern-pennines.co.uk/allendale.htm and www.hadrianswallcountry.org

1819 The custom of men welcoming in the New Year by carrying pans of blazing tar on their heads is still kept alive in Allendale, Northumberland on New Year’s Eve. The unique Pagan ceremony is held at midnight with a colourful procession through the town to the Baal fire. A team of local barrel carriers dressed in fancy costumes, balance flaming whiskey barrels filled with hot tar on their heads through the streets to the town centre. The barrels can weigh as much as 30lbs (15kg). The procession is timed to reach an unlit bonfire shortly before midnight, then each man in turn tosses his flaming ‘headgear’ on to the bonfire, setting it ablaze. On the stroke of midnight, all join hands and dance around the fire, singing Auld Lang Syne.

STONEHAVEN FIREBALLING FESTIVAL
When: 31 December 2012, New Year’s Eve
Where: Old Market Cross, Stonehaven, Kincardineshire, Scotland
Time: Midnight
Email: martinsim@talk21.com
Web: www.stonehavenfireballs.co.uk

Thousands gather at the Old Market Cross in the fishing port of Stonehaven for this fiery festival to welcome in the New Year. A traditional pipe band signals the start of the proceedings and at the stroke of midnight, fireballs are lit and participants whirl the baskets of fire around their heads as they march to the old cannon in the High Street and back to the harbour. This New Year festival has been celebrated for hundreds of years to literally burn the bad spirits of the past year and welcome in the new. The fireballs are baskets made of wire netting, stuffed with driftwood, pine cones and twigs and attached to a length of wire with a handle at the end. Before they are lit they are doused in paraffin.

Comments

  1. avatarMatt R says

    Guy Fawkes’ night in Lewes, East Sussex is worth a mention. The tradition dates back to the Marian persecutions and the ‘Lewes Martyrs’. There’s a parade through the picturesque town, followed by a gathering in a valley outside where they burn a giant effigy of the Pope ( + two other topical effigies). It makes for a bizarre and memorable evening.