Summer is Britain’s weird and wonderful sporting season. For a large community of traditionalists here in the UK the summer is for forgetting about football, cricket, rugby, golf and anything else deemed normal. From cheese rolling and river football to bog-snorkelling and gurning competitions, the summer months are all about craziness. Here we take a look at some of the calendar’s most famous and bizarre sports that make Britain wonderful.
(Cooper’s Hill, near Brockworth, Gloucestershire, England)
What could be more fun than chasing 3kg of cheese, travelling at speeds of up to 70phm, down a hill that in most places would be classed as a cliff? If you want to find out then head for the West of England and to Cooper’s Hill in Brockworth, Gloucestershire on Spring Bank Holiday. For over 200 years residents of the village have been coming to race, run, roll and tumble down the 180m stretch of almost vertical hill to be crowned the Cheese Rolling Champion. The winning prize, for the first contestant to reach the bottom? The cheese, 3kg of locally produced Double Gloucester.
Opening the season for Britain’s craziest sports, Cheese Rolling attracts hundreds of visitors, local and international, who come to marvel as both men and women compete in the death-defying race. Children also get an opportunity to compete, however, in a far safer up-hill race. In recent years, local authorities have attempted to control the event by charging an entrance-fee and even once forced its closure. Nevertheless, rain or shine, at midday the races of the unofficial event continue to run and are manned by a team of hearty local volunteers.
Arrive early to get a good viewing spot then join the crowds for the celebration party at nearby pub, The Cheese Rollers.
Tetbury Woolsack Races
Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England
Image source: www.tetburywoolsack.co.uk
First competed in the 17th century by drunken village drovers (cattle herders) in an effort to impress the local women, Tetbury Woolsack Races are now part of the Guinness Book of Records. Held on Spring Bank Holiday, the races see individuals and teams competing in a battle of strength and fitness by carrying a sack of wool weighing 27kg (16kg for women) up and down Gumstool Hill that separates two local pubs: the Royal Oak and the Crown.
Tetbury, Gloucestershire, was once home to the most renowned wool markets in Britain; therefore, the ability to produce sacks for the races was a simple task. Today, local industry is dominated by brewing and on Woolsack day, the town rejoices by drinking beer at the local pubs before enthusiastically cheering on the race competitors.
Races take place along with a funfair, street market and entertainment continuing into the night.
Image source: www.swampsoccer.co.uk
Scotland is the place to be in June for the most entertaining football (soccer) events. Founded in Finland by a team of cross-country skiers who trained in swamps during the summer months, Swamp Soccer is as simple and bizarre as it sounds – football played in a heavy swamp. Basic football rules apply, with teams of 6 competing on a marked field slightly larger than a 5aSide pitch.
Tournament matches are played over the course of a weekend. To make sure everyone has the opportunity of playing, the event hosts three competitions: Male teams, Female teams and Mixed teams (minimum of 2 females playing at all times).
Anyone can enter, so if you feel like joining the messy fun and tackling in the mud then get a group of friends together and make the trip Scotland for the Swamp Soccer World Cup.
World Toe Wrestling Championship
(Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England)
Based on the ancient sport of arm-wrestling, the World Toe Wrestling Championship is the brainchild of George Burgess and a group of drinking pals from the Royal Oak pub in the town of Wetton, Derbyshire. Fed up of Britain’s lack of sporting achievements, the rules of toe wrestling were created in 1976 in the hope of finding a national sport and champion to be proud of. Since 2003, the championship has taken place at the Bentley Brook Inn, Fenny Bentley, with all proceeds donated to a local charity.
The rules of the game are simple. Contestants must sit on the floor, lock toes and then try to force their rival’s foot to touch the wooden playing area. Toe wrestles are played on a best-of-three basis, with the winner of each heat progressing to the next round until only one entrant remains. The last man/woman standing is thus declared the champion.
Anyone can enter, providing you pass a pre-wrestle foot inspection!
Unfortunately, these sports are still awaiting approval from the official Olympic Committee, however, should years of ancient tradition be of more interest to you this summer, take the opportunity to be part of Britain’s true culture whilst enjoying its beautiful towns and countryside.