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The forthcoming Spring Bank Holiday weekend sees the celebration of some long standing English traditions – some of them quirkier than others.  Here are four of the best:


1. Cheese rolling in Gloucestershire - 27th May

The annual cheese-rolling festival takes place this weekend at noon on Cooper’s Hill, Gloucestershire, in the Cotswolds. 

A large, locally made Double Gloucester cheese is rolled from the top of this incredibly steep one-in-three hill – reaching speeds of up to 70 mph - and the competitors then run after it.  

Not for the faint hearted, the race is open to anyone mad enough to take part.  Injuries are not uncommon!

2. Tetbury Woolsack Races – 27th May

Another annual event, the Tetbury Woolsack Races involve running 240 yards up a one-in-four hill, carrying a 60lb (or 35lb for women) woolsack.

Thought to date back to the 17th Century when young drovers showed off to local women by running up the hill carrying a woolsack, an official race day has been going for over 30 years now, with world records entered in the ‘Guinness Book of Records’.

As well as the races, there is street entertainment, music, stalls and a funfair.


3. Wellow Maypole celebrations - 27th May

There are believed to be approximately 70 villages in England with a permanent maypole. The 55-foot maypole in the village of Wellow, Nottinghamshire, is one of the tallest and one of only a handful where ribbon dancing around the maypole still takes place.

This free event sees the May Queen and her white-frocked Maids of Honour process around the village accompanied by attendants such as Herald,  Bugle  Blower, Train  and  Posy  Bearers and Crown and Bouquet Bearers.

The procession starts at the Church and is followed by the Coronation of the May Queen by the retiring Queen. The new Queen then presides in state over ribbon dancing around the maypole. Expect plenty of musical entertainment, Punch and Judy, displays, stalls and lots more.

4. The hunting of the Earl of Rone – 24th-27th May

Unique to Combe Martin on the coast of north Devon and involving some 600 villagers, is the Hunting of the Earl of Rone – who legend has it was Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, who was forced to flee from Ireland in 1607 and shipwrecked in the local bay known as Raparee Cove. 

Over the four days of the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, the Grenadiers, Hobby Horse, Fool and villagers hunt through the village for the 'Earl of Rone', finally finding him on the Monday night.  He is mounted back-to-front on a donkey and paraded through the village to the sea. He is frequently shot by the grenadiers and falls from the donkey only to be revived by the Hobby-horse and Fool, re-mounted on the donkey, and carried onwards to his fate.  At the final shooting on the beach, he is not revived, but thrown into the sea.

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