Swimming, hunting or singing?

Monday 19 December 2011, 11:54

Rachael Garside Rachael Garside

You'll be glad to know that it's not too late to sign up or turn up for the annual Boxing Day Swim in Tenby this year.

This time last year someone (who will remain nameless) suggested a radio programme which would involve me taking part in the aforementioned event which was celebrating its fortieth year.

Thankfully, the idea never came to fruition and I was able to spend Boxing Day safe and warm at home, as opposed to plunging into the Pembrokeshire sea in what turned out to be one of the coldest winters on record.

Having said that, hundreds of courageous, mad or foolhardy swimmers do brave the waters every year at the Tenby event.

And even last year's eye-wateringly low temperatures didn't put that many people off (they had around 400 swimmers taking part instead of the usual 600).

When I was growing up we often went to see the Boxing Day hunt in the Vale of Glamorgan, even though we were confirmed 'townies' who weren't involved in farming or hunting.

It was just part of the festive tradition and there was something exciting about seeing the horses, hounds and redcoats gathering on a frosty winter's morning.

The ban on hunting with hounds has been in place for six years now, but the Boxing Day hunt remains a firm part of the rural calendar.

According to the Masters of Foxhounds Association, there are meets at Caio with the Cwrt y Cadno Farmers, at Cowbridge with the Glamorgan Hunt and Llandysul with the Vale of Clettwr Hunt.

I'm also planning to attend a local Plygain service at Merthyr Church near Meidrim at 11pm on Christmas Eve.

Strictly speaking, a Plygain was held in the early hours of Christmas morning, sometime between 3 and 6am and was traditionally a candle-lit service held in some of the most remote rural areas and featuring around two hours of unaccompanied carol singing.

The modern-day equivalent tends to be at a more sociable hour but the candles still give a festive feel.

There's been something of a Plygain revival this year, with attempts to keep the tradition alive by teaching people how to sing these traditional Welsh carols.

There's an example of Plygain singing on the National Museum of Wale's website, recorded at St Garmon's Church in Llanarmon Mynydd Mawr back in 1965.

So, if there's a choice of swimming, hunting or singing this Christmas, I know which one I'll be going for!

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