Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A Big Season for Sport in the UK

It is a big season for sport in the UK at the moment with most eyes fixed towards Brazil and the World Cup. No one in Blighty ever really expected any more than we got from England (again) we just hoped against hope. And so, the only football song worth singing, 3 Lions on the Shirt, extolling our '30 years of hurt' is now actually 48 years of hurt............and counting.

Sports criss-cross at this time of year with ardent football fans happy to 'get into' the cricket at Lords or tennis at Wimbledon, just so long as the Brit Andy Murray is doing well. They'll lose interest and start to Google the new seasons fixture list as soon as Andy the Scot is knocked out. For horse racing we flock in our thousands to the Epsom Derby and soon after to Royal Ascot, a tradition of pomp and circumstance since Queen Anne kicked it all off in 1711 (though why she didn't just settle on a 5pm start is beyond me). The great and the good flow into affluent Berkshire to witness the flat seasons best nags, the gents bedecked in top hat and tails and the ladies beautifully resplendent, finally realising the culmination of many hours shopping and deliberation to at last parade like horny peacocks up and down the paddocks. More often than not, where they flowed in they are later poured back, into chauffeur cars and coaches for the long journey home. The toffs in familiar Bentleys while the wannabe's choosing a classic pink stretched limo which best befits their breeding.

At all events the sights and sounds are set on repeat, ticket touts pass with furtive 'I buy and sell, Guv' and the ladies in too high heels totter around like new born deer looking for sympathy to their excruciating pain with a shrill 'I wear them for you' defence ( which is about as sound as Jagielka and co' proved to be), Strawberries and cream, hot dogs and lager and 'champagne with no knickers' make all of our summer events well worth adding to your bucket list

That said, I want to introduce you to some different kinds of sports, well, if not exactly sport then pastimes and events. You see the British do the big events better than anyone in the world. The Queen's Parade at Ascot and the whites of Wimbledon bellow tradition and heritage and for those modern upstarts our music festivals are the envy of the world....but we Brits have so much more to offer;

Gloucester Cheese Rolling -
Thought to have been happening for hundreds of years, the origin of pushing a huge round of cheese down a 1 in 3 hill while being pursued by a gaggle of lunatics ( no one can cite defamation as I have stood on Coopers Hill and you need to be crazy to jump down it) are vague, and if honest slightly boring. Instead, let's just marvel at the fact that this event is still being run today if for no other reason than it is an illegal event, in the eyes of the police and local council who refuse to sanction the day anyhow. So be warned that aside from a few St Johns ambulance volunteers, there is very little assistance to be found should your foot happen to end up facing the wrong way when you land (also witnessed at Coopers Hill). Alas, it will also means your travel insurance is null and void too.

The rewards for the 1st person over the finish line, as you are not expected to keep pace with a cheese travelling at 70 mph, are well short of worthy for such do-daring but the £10 prize fund does deter the hustlers and professionals from bothering.........that and the risk of serious injury. Cheese rolling takes place on Coopers Hill, Brockworth, nr Gloucester, (07785368693) on the Spring Bank Holiday Monday. To enter you need to turn up early as the police block the road, climb the hill and join the toothless morons drinking Scrumpy and then take a deep, deep breath.

Nettle Eating Championship

The first person ever to pick up a hand full of Nettle, an aggressive little weed with the ability to first sting then irritate the skin, pop it into their mouth and eat it was probably drunk, being dared or both.

But then to establish a World Championship for Nettle eating!? Well, only the British. The Bottle Inn, nr Bridport hosts this enigma with locals to internationals (ok, curious tourists) all sitting to devour as many stalks as they can hold down with-in the allotted time. Liquid refreshment is allowed, if not imperative, but no other assistance bar the encouragement of the gathering is permitted.

Set in the middle of the pubs June Beer Festival the chance to become a World Champion is too good an opportunity to turn down for the dozen or so tingly mouthed entrants. Visit for details.

Big Snorkelling

The activity of bog snorkelling was started in 1976 near Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, which apart from being officially the smallest town in the United Kingdom is a rather ordinary and, dare I say it, drab place. So to attract more tourists a plan was hatched from an over-the-bar conversation at The Neuadd Arms.

The World Bog Snorkelling Championship, first held in 1985, takes place annually every August Bank Holiday at the dense Waen Rhydd peat bog, near the aforementioned boring town. In 2013 Dineka Maguire broke the previous World Record set by Andrew Holmes. Dineka's time was 1:23.13 secs, also making her the Ladies champion.

The event now attracts more than 200 entrants who lower down into the murky, cold water, hoping their feet wont find a dead sheep, before pushing off along the 55 metre trench to touch the post at the end and back again. Easy eh, well not so much. The rules are simple in that you must wear flippers and a snorkel (wet suit at your discretion) but you cannot use conventional swimming strokes. So a manic display of flipper power, without the poise and grace shown by the 'Man from Atlantis', is displayed as these oil skinned fools thrash through the Welsh countryside watched by locals who, in the pub that night, 'didn't think anyone would be stupid enough' 

Google, and get a tetanus jab.

To enjoy any of these events in chauffeur driven luxury (which you'll need after some of them) visit