Bizarre British Cultural Traditions

Bizarre British Cultural Traditions 

Hi guys! 

Today I’m back with another entertainment related piece. A little more traditional this time, a little more cultural and something that’s very much part of our history, though I can’t honestly say I’ve ever seen myself as a professional Morris Dancer. 

If I asked you to consider the quintessential British summer, you may think of an afternoon at the local cricket ground supping wine and nibbling on vol-au-vents, or you might think of an afternoon sprawled out on the garden chairs turning yourself pink with a hot dog and a fridge full of beer, or a weekend away in the caravan, in the caravan, with your hands and face pressed against the glass sighing deeply as the rain hammers in sideways.  

You wouldn’t necessarily think of taking an old tin bath down to the harbor and paddling for all your worth as if your life depended on it, (purely for entertainment), nor would you necessarily think of digging out your old soggy wellies and seeing how far you could throw them.  And that’s what you would be missing.  See, however bizarre they seem, our old cultural traditions of what we did for entertainment years ago, actually is, quintessentially British, and some of these bizarre events are as popular today as they ever were. 

World Tin Bath Championships

Generally considered to be cultural attractions, a few of these events have evolved into world championships and amass gatherings of thousands of spectators.  The World Tin Bath Championship is one such event.  It takes place every year in the Isle of Man and draws almost one hundred competitors, who press themselves snugly into an old tin bath and ‘paddle like the clappers’ as they say, in order to cross the finish line or get as far as possible without sinking. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

World Bog Snorkelling 

Another one is the World Bog Snorkelling Championship, held annually in mid Wales.  Participants from all over attempt to advance through just over a hundred metres of filthy, black, cold, smelly water equipped only with a snorkel and a pair of flippers.  Apparently, the use of an identifiable swimming stroke is not permitted, but a general thrashing of the feet to propel yourself forward with an air of panic is perfectly acceptable. 

This brings me to another bizarre ‘world’ championship: Snail Racing, something that is much better suited to those who have a little more time on their hands.  Rumour has it that snail racing has its origins in France, though it’s still held annually in England and has been for over fifty years.  Snail races take place on a purpose built course, usually a circular table with a damp cloth placed around its perimeter.  The snails are placed or dropped in the centre and naturally forge ahead outwards towards the damp cloth.  The snails are made identifiable by applying small stickers, stamps or tags (or even writing numbers) on the shells. 

Cheese madam?  Go and get it!

Cheese rolling 

A personal favourite of mine is the annual Cheese Rolling event, which takes place in Gloucestershire.  The sheer absurdity of this event is immensely popular and attracts a huge gathering and a whole army of participants.  The challenge begins at the top of a very long steep hill whereby a 5kg round of Double Gloucester cheese is sent rolling down the hill closely followed by hordes of hungry hapless zombies, who almost immediately lose control and are sent themselves, careering down the hill as its dips and bumps toss them around like a rag doll.  To the onlookers it’s hilarious, but the amount of broken limbs over the years suggests it’s possibly not as hilarious for the participants.  As the cheese can reach speeds of over 100kph it’s hardly surprising that the winner isn’t the person who catches the cheese, but the person who makes it over the finish line first.  When I say ‘makes it’, it would be more accurate to say the first person ‘spotted’ flying over the finish line.  By this time the cheese is usually in the next village. 

Finally, we have the classic spectacle of true British entertainment, this time in the form of Welly Wanging.  Often called ‘welly throwing’ the challenge is quite simple:  Participants take a wellington boot and throw it (or wang it) as far as they possibly can.  They can throw underarm or overarm and from a standing or running start.   As for the rules, the organisers have very strict stipulations on the wellies: they must be a size 9 and not tampered with in any way, so no external fans or jet engines.  This event can also be highly comical to watch, as participants often take their role incredibly seriously. 

If you’re interested in an alternative summer this year and you wish to get involved, there’s a great site offering excellent deals on used wellies, cheese and bath tubs.  Have a look at to get started.