The question of just what it is that makes Britain “Great” has become something of a talking point over the past few months—but history and politics aside, those who truly know and love the island will agree that it's the eccentricity and uniqueness of the place that earns it that title.
A rich culture of inventiveness, diversity, and out-and-out weirdness has ensured that wherever you find yourself in Britain, you’re never far from an enlightening discovery. And while the 2012 Olympics was a great chance to showcase the greats of international sport and British hospitality, just beneath the radar there has always been a secret, ‘second Olympics’ going on—the Olympics of weird athletic contests.
World Bog Snorkelling Championship
The land that inspired much of Tokien’s Lord of the Rings sometimes sounds like a fantasy world in itself. Where else but Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales would you expect to compete in a contest to race across a murky peat bog wearing a snorkel and fins, with the key rule being: no conventional swimming moves allowed!?
British Lawn Mower Racing Championship
Everyone feels like an undiscovered Formula 1 racer when they get behind the wheel of a riding mower, but only in England have they taken this to its logical conclusion by establishing an annual lawnmower Grand Prix. If you fancy the thrills of the live experience, the next one takes place in August 2018.
World Black Pudding Throwing Championship
Ever cautious not to lose their title as the most eccentric land on Earth, the Brits have expanded from the weirdness of merely eating black pudding (a savory cake of pig’s blood, onion and oats) to competitively throwing it at a pile of batter-based Yorkshire puddings. To top it off, this alternative Olympics event takes place in a town called Ramsbottom.
Hurling the Silver Ball
A far more civilized thing to throw than black pudding is a cricket ball-sized silver globe—or so you would think. In fact, when this annual event descends on the Cornish town of St Ives, it means no less than a town-wide communal rugby game—and all for the honor of winning a single silver coin.
The Highland Games is Scotland’s answer to the Olympics, and the Scots’ answer to the javelin is an 80-kilo tree trunk. Best remain a spectator for this one? It takes place in July 2018!
World Welly Wanging Championship
What is a welly? How does one ‘wang’ one? And how did Upperthong, West Yorkshire get its name? Hopefully this amusing poster clears up the first questions. The rest is obviously best left to the imagination.
World Egg Throwing Championship
There are many ways to cook an egg, but in Britain the real art lies in catching a raw one thrown more than fifty meters through the air without smashing it all over your best egg-throwing leotard.
Shetland Pony Grand National
You have to be a special kind of person (or a special kind of pony) to take part in this one. Riders should be children aged between 8 and 13, and shorter than five feet tall. To truly entertain your fantasy that Britain is a fantastical land populated by mythical creatures, make your way to the Shetland Pony Grand National and pretend to yourself it’s just a regular British horse race.
Tetbury Woolsack Race
The men of this Gloucestershire town traditionally tried to impress the womenfolk by running from pub to pub with a live sheep on their shoulders. While today they carry a more ethical bag of freshly-shaved wool on their backs, the tradition lives on—and women are welcome to take part, now, too.
World Toe-Wrestling Championship
There’s little to say about this particular contest that you can’t get from its name or the accompanying poster—except that it results in more broken bones than you would expect!
World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship
It seems the British are more renowned for their food-based athleticism than they are for their feats of cooking! Like all the best contests, this contest to eat the pain-inducing plant began as a bet between rival farmers.
Egg Jarping Competition
If the World Egg Throwing Championship is a little too raw for your tastes, you might prefer to visit Peterlee, County Durham, for this battle between hard-boiled eggs in which the first one to crack is the loser.
Feeling sporty – or just hungry? Maybe Great Britain is the destination to sate your appetite!
Poster images from: Holiday Cottages