Bottle kicking and hare pie: Ancient tradition survives in Leicestershire

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

A "very English and very eccentric" tradition that dates back centuries has attracted thousands of people on Easter Monday.

The Hallaton Bottle Kicking contest pits teams from two Leicestershire villages who try to take control of a keg of beer.

The "ferocious rugby scrum" takes five hours to complete and is believed to have started before the Christian era.

A hare pie was also distributed to villagers during the event.

'Ferocious scrum'

Hallaton's Bottle-Kicking chairman Phil Allan said: "It is something that has gone on from time immemorial - it is a very ancient custom."

He said a large traditional hare pie was paraded to the church gates and later taken to a hillside where it was "scrambled" or thrown into the crowd.

He said the bottle kicking - which involves teams from Hallaton and nearby Medbourne trying to move a keg of beer over the hills back to their respective village in a rugby-like scrum - is rough and tumble.

"The rules are very simple - there aren't any rules.

"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."

Image caption The event is like a "furious game of rugby" involving thousands of people

There is no limit to the number of people who can join in the event, but he estimated about 7,000 people were involved this year.

The first team to move two of the three kegs over the stream in their village is declared the winner.

The bottles or kegs are often moved over fences, hedges and ditches but the competitors simply "go straight through and there are some repairs to do the next day", he added.

Image caption The teams tackle the kegs and try to get them across a nearby stream

Mr Allan, who has been Hallaton chairman for 30 years, said the event has only been cancelled once - in 2001 because of the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

Some members of the victorious side are allowed to climb to the top of the Buttercross monument in Hallaton and drink the beer from the kegs after the event is finished.

This year's event was won by Hallaton.

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