England’s Strangest Events


As a soccer player, I’m pretty familiar with kicking people in the shins and, likewise, enduring a few wallops myself. However, I’ve never considered getting this barbaric off the field. On the other hand, in the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, about a 1 1/2-hour drive from London, it’s a national pastime. Seriously, at the Cotswolds Olimpicks, shin-kicking is highly acceptable. This rowdy gathering dates back to 1612 and pairs up two men who proceed to kick the tar out of each other, after they stuff their pant legs with hay, of course, to soften the blows. Beyond this unusual activity, there are some pretty normal occurrences, too, like tug-of-war, dancing and the cannon fire.

Here are five other strangely intriguing events I think you should know about:

World Snail Racing Championships, July 
For more than 25 years, the World Snail Racing Championships have been held in Norfolk, where more than 300 snails slug it out for the title of “Fastest Snail in the World.” Anyone with a snail can enter. The winner receives a silver trophy stuffed with lettuce. Hooray! Currently, Archie holds the record. This little mollusk swept the 13-inch course in two minutes flat. Goooooo Archie!

World Toe-Wrestling Championship, August
First held over 30 years ago, the Bentley Brook Inn pub in Derbyshire hosts the World Toe-Wrestling Championships. How exactly does it work? Contestants, wearing wrestling outfits, sit opposite each other on the “toe-dium” and, locking their big toes together, place their feet on a small wooden frame. Once the host yells “toe-down” contestants attempt to force their opponent’s foot to the ground.

Isle of Wight Garlic Festival, August 
Garlic ice cream, anyone? How about garlic-flavored jelly beans or beer? Mmmm, better bring some breath mints to this gathering. Celebrate the Isle of Wight’s “Golden Clove,” including the popular oak-smoked variety. Stroll among 250 stalls for rhubarb and garlic chutneys, garlic mussels and more.

Biggest Liar in the World Competition, November
Held at the Bridge Inn in Cumbria, this entertaining Competition is a very popular contest to find the best tall-tale teller. Contestants travel great distances to pit their storytelling skills against an elite field of fibbers.

Flaming Barrels, December 
On New Year’s Eve in Northumberland from 11.30 p.m. to midnight, men welcome in the new year by carrying pans of blazing tar on their heads. Why, you ask? Well it’s been done since 1819, and I guess that’s reason enough. The unique Pagan ceremony is held at midnight with a colorful procession through the town to the Baal fire. Once the clock strokes 12, then the men toss their flaming headgear into the bonfire. Afterward, they join hands, dance around the fire and sing a traditional song.

Find more quirky events at visitengland.com.