Gloucestershire is home to a bevy of outlandish events to raise a smile – and possibly an eyebrow. Whether it’s the internationally renowned Cheese Rolling that captures your imagination or you fancy the chance to take part in a spot of shin-kicking, or perhaps it’s the unusual Amberly Cow Hunt that has piqued your interest.
From the brave to the barmy, peruse SoGlos’s guide to Gloucestershire’s most wacky events, and find out just when the next madcap mayhem will be making its mark.
When: Various times throughout the year
Expect to find: Surf dudes, canoeists and windsurfers aplenty, all riding the epic Atlantic wave of water that forces its way up the Severn Estuary at speeds of up to 20mph, with hordes of spectators all flocking to the river banks to witness the natural phenomenon.
SoGlos loves: The River Severn has the second largest tidal range in the world, so the bore can reach anything up to two metres in height – great news for sports enthusiasts who fancy a change from Newquay.
For more info: See The Severn Bore.
When: Annually in April
Expect to find: More than 30 ‘amoosingly’ named wooden cows, such as ‘Desperate Cowswife’, ‘Moolin Rouge’ and ‘Diamond Moobilee’, dotted around the village of Amberley, forming a novelty trail for families to discover and win some great prizes. The two-day event also features a Cow Hunt quiz, vintage tea tent and plenty of entertainment for the little ones.
SoGlos loves: Organised by the local school, the Amberley Cow Hunt is not only held to celebrate the arrival of the real cows to the common, but also raise funds for the Send a Cow charity, which provides livestock for families in Africa.
For more info: See Amberley Cow Hunt.
When: Annually in September
Expect to find: An action-packed day in the village of Frampton On Severn as a host of brave competitors set to satisfy their stomachs in the Elver Eating World Championships, with a classic car show, children’s entertainment, tug o’ war and more set to sweep the village.
SoGlos loves: Following a four decade absence, the elver eating competition returns with a man-made and sustainable type of eel – el-vers – due to the real thing being a protected species.
For more info: See Elver Eating World Championship
When: Annually on the first bank holiday Monday in May
Expect to find: Crazy motorless carts careering down Chipping Street in the Cotswold town of Tetbury, taking on a tight hairpin bend, otherwise known as crash corner, and competing for the fastest time in two runs, not to mention a best looking design award.
SoGlos loves: Besides the thrills and spills on the track, there’s plenty of family fun to be had on the sidelines, with Just a Couple of Mums DJs spinning the decks at The Royal Oak and refreshments, ice-creams and sizzling sausages all being served.
For more info: See Tetbury Wacky Races.
When: Annually on the second or third Sunday in May
Expect to find: At Gloucester’s historic Docks each spring, you’ll find hordes of fancy dress-clad rowers, steerers and drummers making their way across the water in decorative dragon boats, ready to rile up the spectators from far and wide with music and passion, before plenty more entertainment in the afternoon, featuring a fun fair, stalls and live music to boot.
SoGlos loves: The descent of the dragon boats is an annual Gloucester tradition, now past its 15th year, which raises money for CLIC Sargent. Anyone can take part – whether you’re a salty sea dog or new mate.
For more info: See Gloucester Docks Dragon Boat Regatta.
When: Annually on the last bank holiday Monday in May
Expect to find: An unruly bunch of rugged runners demonstrating their immense strength and fitness by taking on the steep ‘1 in 4’ hill through Tetbury town with a weighty 60lb (for the gents) or 35lb (for the ladies) woolsack on their backs. Spectators can also join the townsfolk in celebration at the street fair, complete with live music and dance performances, stalls filled with local produce and fairground rides for the kids.
SoGlos loves: While the races are thought to have originated in the 17th century, the bank holiday shenanigans have become an official draw to Tetbury for more than 30 years, with the chance for competitors to snag a world record, no less.
For more info: See Tetbury Woolsack Races.
When: Traditionally on the last bank holiday Monday in May
Expect to find: Perhaps the most famous of Gloucestershire’s wacky traditions, the annual cheese rolling competition at Cooper’s Hill sees hundreds of locals pegging it down a very steep slope after an elusive 8lb Double Gloucester cheese. Due to popular demand, organisers have even added a ladies’ downhill and kids’ uphill race, providing the opportunity for the whole family to take part. Attracting thousands of spectators from near and far, the event has gained recognition across the globe and even inspired a New Zealand version. Despite being officially cancelled since 2010, an unofficial event has been staged ever since.
SoGlos loves: The colourful collection of fancy dress sported by competitors each year – with everything from superheroes and farmyard animals to Borat-style mankinis providing inspiration.
For more info: See Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling.
When: Annually in June
Expect to find: At Dover’s Hill in Chipping Campden each summer you’ll find a host of unusual athletic events, a tug o’ war tussle, live music and dance performances, as well as plenty to keep the little ones entertained – not to mention the legendary (and slightly savage) British Shin-Kicking Championships.
SoGlos loves: Thousands of people gathering for the bonfire, lit by the Scuttlebrook Queen, followed by fireworks lighting up the sky, and ending with the traditional torchlight procession to Chipping Campden Square– an incredible sight to behold.
For more info: See Robert Dover’s Cotswold Olimpick Games.
When: Annually in July
Expect to find: Scores of rosy-cheeked, bearded little men dotted around the pretty private gardens of Eastcombe, waiting to be discovered by families following the trail and solving clues in the hope of winning one of their own gnome – plus plenty of stalls, games and ice cream promising a great family day out.
SoGlos loves: The annual gnome hunting event offers the rare opportunity to explore this stunning hilltop village in detail, taking in honey-coloured Cotswold stone properties, winding lanes and glorious gardens – and raises funds for the local primary school too.
For more info: See Eastcombe Gnome Hunt.
When: Annually on the last Bank holiday Monday in August
Expect to find: In the River Windrush every bank holiday Monday in August, you’ll find a gaggle of goal-scoring geezers from Bourton Rovers Football Club playing a laugh-a-minute game of football while immersed up to their knees in freezing water – all angling for glory in this 100-year-old competition. Thousands of spectators converge on the grassy banks each year, but be warned, waterproofs are a must if you plan on getting a sideline view, as splashing is all part of the fun and these boys are hoping to get as many people wet as possible.
SoGlos loves: That the soaking wet silliness is all part of the community spirit in Bourton-on-the-Water, with charitable donations, a fete and duck racing all raising money on the day.
For more info: See Bourton Football in the River.
When: Annually in September
Expect to find: Hundreds of people all crying (with laughter usually) in unison, in celebration of the glorious, humble onion. This totally unique Forest of Dean event takes in a generous dollop of music, lots of local produce (including onions, of course) and family fun – including demonstrations and displays, craft stalls, circus skills, and even a fun fair complete with a Helter-Skelter and Big Wheel. Indisputably an event of many layers…
SoGlos loves: The world-famous raw onion-eating contest is a particular highlight, giving competitive types something to really get their teeth into.
For more info: See Newent Onion Fayre.
When: Annually in September
Expect to find Expected to return by popular demand in 2016, following its 2013 debut, eight hilarious sheep races take place in this unique spectacle . While Frampton Court buzzes with side-line attractions including live music, family entertainment, a barbecue, bar, a tote and more.
SoGlos loves: The funds raised from each sheep race will be donated to a local organisation, with each event raising several thousand pounds for local community causes.
For more info See Frampton Sheep Racing
When: Every two years in September
Expect to find: Officially known as the Avening Feast and Queen Matilda’s Pageant, Pig Face Day sees villagers attending evensong at Avening’s Church of the Holy Cross before devouring a slap-up hog roast in the village hall. Held every two years in honour of Queen Matilda, wife to William the Conqueror, and who consecrated the church in 1080 – for famously rewarding the builders with a feast of boar’s head or Pig’s Face.
SoGlos loves: A boar’s head is now symbolically paraded through the village in a torchlight procession led by the Queen, with locals donning medieval costume to truly get into the spirit.
For more info: Unavailable
When: Annually on Christmas Day
Expect to find: F-f-f-freezing cold festive frolics as those looking to add a crazy twist to their Christmas celebrations brave the unheated icy December depths and take the plunge at Sandford Parks Lido in Cheltenham – sometimes in fancy dress, too! Participants must even sign a waiver form prior to entering the ice-cold water, with organisers warning this is not for the faint-hearted.
SoGlos loves: The peculiar pastime is believed to have taken off after American servicemen boldly opted for a Christmas day wash during World War II, and is now seen as an annual challenge for many of the seasonal swimmers.
For more info: See Sandford Parks Lido Christmas Swim.
When: Annually on Boxing Day
Expect to find: Locals and tourists alike flock to Bibury, complete with bobble hats, gloves and scarves, to brave the bitter Boxing Day cold to scoff mince pies, glug mulled wine and shout words of support to a flock of more than 100 rubber ducks released onto the River Coln.
SoGlos loves: As each duck can be sponsored for £10, the person whose duck emerges victorious is afforded the opportunity of a little Christmas philanthropy – being allowed to choose which charity the sponsor money will go to.
For more info: See Bibury Duck Race.
Thursday 16 February 2017
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