January Picks: Unusual UK Traditions


Now is a time for planning – for buying diaries and calendars, for organising trips and events. It’s great to have one’s year mapped out with things to look forward to and things not to miss. Whilst noting your summer holiday dates and jotting down that concert, be sure to pencil in some of these unmissable and unusual UK events. You really haven’t seen anything until you’ve witnessed bun throwing in Oxfordshire, bog snorkelling in Powys or worm charming in Cheshire!


Cheese Rolling, Gloustershire (Spring Bank Holiday)

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This wonderfully dangerous event dates back to the 18th Century and involves locals hurling themselves down a hill in a bid to catch a rolling wheel of cheese. The official Cheese Race has been cancelled numerous times due to health and safety concerns, but residents of the Cooper’s Hill area stage their own version regardless! The winners are often experts at the sport, often taking away the cheese prize and trophy year after year. If you wish to view this quirky English tradition safely, be sure to keep a good distance away from the fearlessly charging contestants. Rent Grace’s Skoda Fabia and make the two and half hour drive from London to Gloustershire to enjoy this bizarre ritual. Parking nearby the event is prone to become overcrowded, so be sure to park further off and walk the final stretch.


Jack the Green, East Sussex (May Day Bank Holiday)

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Jack the Green is a May Day custom that developed from the May garland. These garlands became so large that eventually one participant in the May Day parade would be swathed in head-to-toe in foliage. For many years the tradition of Jack the Green died out, but it now been revived, perhaps most notably in Hastings in East Sussex. In this version of the parade, the green clad Jack is accompanied by similarly attired ‘bogies’ playing music. The party dances and sings through the streets, along with morris men and costumed revellers, and culminates in a music festival. The whole celebration lasts four days, so it is a great way to enjoy the long weekend. Rent Eileen’s Mazda 2 for an easy trip and to see the seaside town in full.


Nettle Eating, Dorset (Summer Solstice)

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Every year the folk of Dorset gather together to see who can consume the most 2ft long nettles. Started in the 80s, this wacky tradition is the newest on our list. It was begun when two farmers had a bet over whose nettles were the longest, with the loser being awarded the punishment of consuming one 2ft length. Nowadays the competition winner typically consumes around forty such lengths in an hour! The perils of this battle involve a temporarily blackened tongue, a sore jaw, tingling lips and an increased need to visit the lavatory! To witness this spectacle first hand, rent Dami’s Audi TT to travel in luxury down to the south-west coast.


Swan Upping, Oxfordshire (Mid July)

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If you like a bit of pomp and ceremony then the Royal Swan Upping is the event for you. Every year scarlet liveried Royal Swan Uppers in skiffs who journey up and down the Thames in the search for swans. This tradition serves a practical purpose – the protection of the cygnets, who are weighed, measured and checked for injuries. The tradition boasts a 900 year history and is, on the rarest of occasions, attended by royalty. The best place to watch proceedings is Abingdon-upon-Thames, so rent Henry’s Audi A4 and motor up to view the annual ceremony.

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