Being stuck inside (again) has definitely made me consider what it is I miss most when my world is reduced to the 4 walls of my house. I am lucky enough to have my kids and hubby with me, so things are never dull (very loud, but never dull). But what I miss most is interacting with my community and those local events that bring neighbourhoods together. The British have always had the reputation for marching to the beat of their own drum. Eccentricity comes rather naturally to inhabitants of these charming isles and is beautifully depicted by the many yearly madcap events that I would give my left foot to attend right now whilst enjoying a nicely chilled Pimms.
The Coopers Hill Cheese Rolling, where a mob of fearless people throw themselves off a 45-degree incline in pursuit of a 4kg wheel of Double Gloucester cheese, has now become world-renowned, partly thanks to the Netflix documentary “We Are The Champions”. However, there are many great championships unique to Britain. From rubber boot throwing to wife carrying and Cotswold’s very own Olympicks, the British have definitely got being bonkers down to a fine art.
Beware, there are many pretenders in this highly competitive sport. The true Welly Wangling World Championship takes place each year in the village of Upperthong, West Yorkshire. The aim of the game is to toss a wellington boot (a green size 9 Dunlop - choice of which foot lies with the competitor) as far as you can with a 42 pace run-up. There are various techniques that can be used such as one-handed (classic), the double-hander, between the knees (for beginners only apparently) and the backwards overhead throw (for those blessed with blind luck).
Robert Dover’s Cotswolds Olympicks in Chipping Camden were established over 400 years ago in the form of traditional rural sporting games much akin to the Scottish Highland Games. The Olympicks still retain some of the more traditional events such as shot put and spurning the barr (the old English version of the caber toss). They have now been joined by some modern addition such as a dustbin relay and the very popular World Shinkicking Championship where, you will be pleased to know, steel-capped boots have now been banned.
You do not get more British than a rousing game of conkers in the autumn. For those uninitiated to this glorious and very niche pass time, the game of conkers involves two competitors swinging shiny brown horse chestnuts (conkers) that have been put on strings at each other. Tampering with the string or the conker is banned of course and the winner after 3 strikes is named King Conker.
If this sounds like your cup of tea, get yourself to The Shuckburgh Arms in the village of Southwick near Oundle in Northamptonshire where the championships take place on the second Sunday of October each year.
This is definitely not a relaxing snorkel through the crystal blue seas of the Gulf of Thailand. This is snorkelling Welsh style. The goal here is to negotiate two laps of a 60-foot trench at Waen Rhydd bog without using conventional swimming strokes. All whilst wearing a snorkel and novelty headgear of course.
Wife carrying was kindly reintroduced to British culture by the UK Wife Carrying Race in 2008 after an almost 900-year break. Set in Dorking, it involves negotiating a 380m course with a ‘wife’ on your back. All whilst spectators are actively encouraged to spray them with water pistols and slosh buckets of water over their heads. The wife can be of any gender and doesn’t even need to the racer’s wife. They must simply be over 18 years old, weigh more than 50kg and wear a helmet. Safety first.
The Llandovery Sheep Festival, held in the Welsh town each September, is a celebration of sheep farming in its entirety. The crowning gem, however, is the festival’s sheep race. This involves teams of two ‘shepherds’ and a sheep 'jockey' careening through the town centre on fake sheep on wheels. Not to be missed.
Maldon in Essex is usually known for its artisan sea salt production. However, each June, it is invaded by 300 creatively dressed go-getters ready to throw themselves headfirst into the muddy bed of the River Blackwater tackle the 400-yard course in the name of local charities. It takes some a mere few minutes and others hours but there are lovely stalls and lots of other entertainment to while the day away watching others do the hard graft.