Cheese-rolling

Britain’s Strangest Summer Festivals

As the summer months roll around, cities and towns all over the world gear up for one of the rites of the season: festivals. Most people expect celebrations of food and music or a commemoration of an important historical event or figure, but in some parts of the U.K., a simple strawberry festival is not enough. Why gorge yourself on strawberry jam when there are far more interesting activities in which to partake?

Interesting activities abound in every corner of Britain during the summer. From toe-wrestling to cheese-rolling, Britain may hold the monopoly on the strange and unusual. Not convinced? Check out these five wacky events competing for space on your summer to-do list.

Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake, Gloucestershire

Cheese-rollingWhile most people enjoy cheese on a sandwich, in this small village in the Cotswolds, catching a rolling wheel of cheese as it careens down a hill allows for serious bragging rights. The traditional event, held on the Spring Bank Holiday in May each year, is believed to have started over a century ago as farmers competed for the rights to graze on the town common. Others claim the event started as a pagan tradition to honour spring. In either case, these days thousands of spectators and participants from all over the world congregate in the village of Brockworth to chase large wheels of cheese down a steep hill. The cheese can reach speeds of up to 112 kilometres per hour on the hill, so this is not for the faint of heart — although anyone can enter. And the prize? A wheel of cheese, of course.
Dunmow Flitch Trials, Great Dunmow, Essex

Feel the need to prove your marital bliss? Do you love bacon? Then head to Great Dunmow in mid-July to compete in the Dunmow Flitch Trials, where you and your dearly beloved compete with other happy couples to convince a panel of judges you have not argued, offended each other or wished you had not gotten married at any point in the previous year. If you can manage that, your prize is a flitch of bacon or half a pig cut lengthwise.

International Bognor Birdman, Bognor Regis, Sussex

Since time began, man has attempted to fly with varying degrees of success. Those who want to release their inner Wright Brother have the chance at the International Bognor Birdman Competition (also known as Bognor Birdman) each July in Sussex. Professional and amateur aviators fling themselves off the end of a long pier into the ocean to see who can stay airborne the longest. Professional aviators often use hang gliders, but the real show is the amateur division, in which participants don crazy costumes (think flying donuts and woodland creatures) before crashing their contraptions. There are other Birdman competitions around the world, but the Sussex event is the oldest and most popular.

Town Crier’s Championship, Blackpool

If you’re planning a summer holiday in Blackpool, keep in mind in the middle of July, town criers from all over England congregate in the town’s centre for the annual Town Crier’s Championship. The rule is simple: The loudest voice wins. The competition includes a number of side events as well, such as a prize for the best-dressed crier.

If you want to witness the Town Crier’s Championship in Blackpool, don’t wait till the last minute to arrange your travel plans.

World Toe-Wrestling Championships, Ashbourne, Derbyshire

A popular charity event, the World Toe-Wrestling Championships attract thousands of spectators and participants who want to show what their toes can do. In each event, two combatants sit opposite each other, interlock their toes and attempt to wrestle their opponent’s foot until it touches a marker on either side. The winner receives bragging rights for the next year and all of the proceeds go to a local charity.

These are a few of the unusual and strange festivals you’ll find around Britain this summer. So if you don’t have the budget or the time to travel to a major event, check to see what’s happening in your area. Chances are, there is something out of the ordinary.

Picture credit: Mike Warren

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