Coronavirus: England's oddest events hit by the lockdown

By Jennifer Meierhans
BBC News

People at NudeFest2018
Image caption,
NudeFest2020 hopes to return in September with naked dodgems

The Easter and Spring Bank Holidays mark some of the oldest - and oddest - traditions in England's eclectic calendar. As the lockdown continues, here's a look at some of the more unusual events cancelled or postponed due to coronavirus.

Bottle-kicking contest

Media caption,
Footage shows the Hallaton Bottle Kicking contest, which is akin to a rugby scrum

The Hallaton Bottle Kicking contest - a ferocious thousands-strong rugby scrum in Leicestershire - has been cancelled on Easter Monday.

The tradition pits teams from Hallaton against neighbouring Medbourne to wrestle kegs of beer over the hills back to their respective village.

"The rules are very simple - there aren't any rules," chairman Phil Allan told the BBC.

"We do add… that there is no murder, no gouging or no riding on horseback with the bottle allowed… it is actually like a very ferocious rugby scrum."

The event also involves the parading of a hare pie which is later "scrambled" or thrown into the crowd.

Mr Allan urged loyal supporters and fans to stay safe and look forward to next year's event.

Worm charming championships

Image source, Tori Cox
Image caption,
Worm charmers must prove their liquid concoctions are safe by drinking them first

Blackawton International Festival of Worm Charming has been cancelled in South Devon on 9 May.

"All worms are diligently practising social distancing. Therefore they have requested that they do not charm this year," the event's Facebook page said.

Normally, about 100 teams of three compete to charm the greatest number of worms from their 1m (3ft) square patch of grass. But digging is banned.

They are allowed to use their own liquid concoctions to tempt the mini beasts and favourites include water, beer, gravy and sugar.

"People try to simulate the sound of rain to coax the worms out," said chairman Steve Thomas. "We've had everything from tapping on the ground to musical instruments and a team with a mobile phone in each corner of their patch blaring out noises."

As part of the day Old Father Worm imparts his knowledge in the form of "cheats" and school children sing "cheers to the worm".


Media caption,
Nudefest: Inside UK's naturist festival

The UK's biggest naturist festival, NudeFest, has been rescheduled from July to the chillier month of September.

It sees about 500 people bare all at a campsite near Langport in Somerset.

Rachel Wieck, from NudeFest's management, team said: "We are a little bit disappointed because traditionally NudeFest is in June or July.

"But we thought the logical step would be postpone to September. If people have been holed up for weeks or months and may be reluctant to travel abroad they might think 'let's take our clothes off and go to Somerset'."

The week of activities is set to open with naked dodgems, and includes nude bingo, clay pigeon shooting and line dancing.

Obby Oss Festival

Image caption,
Obby Oss is the biggest day in Padstow's calendar

The biggest day in the calendar for the Cornish town of Padstow, the Obby Oss Festival, has been cancelled on 1 May.

The centuries-old folk custom involves two hobby horse processions making their way around the town accompanied by dancers, drums and accordions.

Masks and black frames adorn two horses - red for the Old Oss and blue for the Blue Ribbon Oss, also known as the Peace Oss.

The dance continues all day long until, at midnight, the townsfolk join together to sing Padstow's unique May Song.

"The Old Oss and Blue Ribbon Obby Oss parties jointly announce, with regret, that the Padstow May Day celebrations for this year will be cancelled and will return in 2021," Cornwall Live reported.

World Egg Throwing Championships

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Teams who drop or break their egg are out

Swaton Vintage Day and World Egg Throwing Championships were due to be held in Lincolnshire on 28 June.

But chairman, Charles champion broke the news of his "devastating decision" to cancel this year's show.

The main event sees "tossers" and "catchers" standing 10m (33ft) apart and moving further away after each successful catch.

Teams that drop or break their egg are eliminated and a final is held to crown the champion.

The earliest recorded egg-throwing in Swaton took place in 1322.

Shin-kicking contest

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Shin-kicking has been contested in the Cotswolds since 1612

An annual shin-kicking contest in the Cotswolds has been cancelled on 29 May, organisers said.

The sport has taken place on Dover's Hill, near Chipping Campden, since 1612.

Shin-kicking - which is the highlight of the "Olimpick Games" - involves competitors kicking each other after stuffing their trouser legs with straw.

Competitors wear white coats, representing the traditional shepherd's smock, and steel toe caps are banned.

They hold their opponent by the shoulders and repeatedly kick them in an attempt to throw them over.

The judge, known as a Stickler, decides the winner on the best of three throws.

Cheese rolling

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Some cheese chasers end up with broken bones

A world-famous cheese rolling race in Gloucestershire has also been cancelled.

Hundreds of competitors trip and tumble 200 yards down the 1:2 gradient Cooper's Hill in Brockworth in a bid to snaffle a wheel of cheese.

The unusual event has been celebrated for centuries and is thought to have its roots in a heathen festival to celebrate the return of spring.

But a solitary cheese will still make the journey down Cooper's Hill, according to organisers.

"In line with tradition a cheese will be rolled by the master of ceremony Jem Wakeman on the morning of the 25th," they posted on Facebook.

However, the group warned people to stay safe by following government advice to stay at home.

Maypole festival

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More than 100 people are involved in the Maypole festival

In West Yorkshire, organisers of the Barwick-in-Elmet Maypole festival have cancelled the triennial event.

The tradition involves more than 100 people taking down what is one of England's tallest maypoles at 27m (90ft).

The pole is lowered on Easter Monday, repainted and repaired, and raised again on Spring Bank Holiday Monday.

Festivities are rounded off with a climber scaling the pole to spin the weather vane on top.

"As a village we've experienced our share of tough times over the years, but rest assured we're certain we'll get through this and emerge to put on a fabulous Maypole Day next year," organisers posted on Facebook.

'The birdwatching Glastonbury'

Image source, Birdfair
Image caption,
Birdfair 2019 got muddy

A major wildlife show, dubbed "the birdwatching Glastonbury" has been cancelled.

Birdfair 2020, due to be held at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve in August, is a series of exhibitions, lectures and events promoting conservation.

Organisers said the event, which attracted more than 24,000 people last year, had raised more than £5m over 31 years and cancelling was a "difficult decision".

But they said they were exploring a digital event featuring some of the scheduled lectures and Birdfair 2021 was already being planned.

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