English Traditions that are hard to believe

The British have some interesting, but also unusual traditions that fascinate people who come to the UK for visits.  In no order, here are six one we really love.

Cheese Throwing

This amazingly quirky festival takes part each year in Gloucestershire.  In fact, its at Coopers Hill and usually happens in the Spring.  The idea, after you have thrown your cheese down the hill is to see if you can catch it (and anyone else’s) before it gets to the bottom.  That sounds easy, I know.  But take a look at these videos and you will see the gradient coopers hill – Bing video on Coopers Hill and then it will not come as any surprise to see why people fall down; tumble into each other and why, best of it, it is a great spectacle for “ onlookers” to see.   The local Hospital is always ready for broken bones and bruises ?

Morris Dancing

We don’t know what to say about this.  It’s fun. It’s eccentric and its very British.  On certain Pagan Festivals, such as May Day, these people join together and dance around a maypole.  In addition, they have ribbons and bells on their costumes which tingle and jangle when you dance.  They also have sticks and flails also with bells on them and to complete the look lots of fresh flowers in their hats and hair.  All in all, though it is a rather wonderful event to watc


Such a weird thing to do – who wants to make themselves ugly to look at?  Gurning is another rural English tradition and dates back to around 1267 when King Henry even granted it a Royal Charter!  Some Gurning contests take place with heads pushed through a horse collar just to make you look even more ridiculous.  It used to be said that the best Gurners were older people because “ back in the day” they had lost their teeth and being toothless or gummy made for even more effective weird and ugly poses.  

It’s certainly a weird and wonderful tradition and there are both male and female Title Holders.  One man even had all his teeth removed just so that his jaw was more flexible.  As you can imagine, whilst we love a British Tradition, we DO NOT advocate doing that to win the title.

Worm Charming

This is one of our favourite British traditions.  Rumour has it that it started when a gentleman wanted to relieve himself and could not find a toilet so did so in a field.  He could not believe it as worms started coming up from under the ground thinking it was a rainstorm! Obviously fuelled with far too much beer they decided to make a competition from it, but without using the original mode of getting them to the surface!  

They in fact use all manner of ways to ensure the worms come to the surface from stamping the ground to flooding it.  Some still like to use the traditional fork method of turning the ground over. A few even use a Pipe to charm them up like snakes.  Anyway, whatever happens it’s a Devon tradition that seems set to continue with more than 600 people attending this year.  There are teams of 3 people, and the time limit is 15 minutes.  So, if you have time, why not take yourself out into the garden and try your luck.  If you are any good you can travel to Devon, Cheshire or any of the other rural idyls to try your luck!

World Worm Charming Championships takes place in England – Bing video

Bog Snorkelling

Now I have to say this one took us by surprise, and we had to find out more.  It started off in the Peat Bogs of Wales, but it has spread to other locations such as Australia and Ireland. The rules are simple enough.  You have to wear snorkel, a diving mask and flippers.  You must swim – well just using flippers – through this peat bog of 55 metres twice.  So once up and then back without using traditional swimming methods.  People have now started getting creative and are wearing fancy dress to do it – it’s been going a fair few years and looks like it will only grow and grow. The best ideas and traditions are usually conceived in a Pub and this, dear readers, is no different.

Straw Bear Parade

We love this winter festival which takes place in the local town of Whittlesey   No one is entirely clear on its origins, but it is thought to note the start of the farming season at the end of the winter / beginning of spring. It appears to have been going for about 100 years.  Some local farm labourers would dress up as straw bears and parade or be led through the town hoping for some funds or donations from villagers to keep them warm and fed through the winter.  The festival then expanded to include music and dancing and then the Morris Dancers (see our notes on them above ) got involved.   At the end of the festival the Straw Bears are either kept until they disintegrate or more popular, they gather them all together and set fire to them and hold another festival – yes with Morris Dancers – to celebrate it.  If nothing else, it certainly cheered them up during the dark and bleak winter months. 

And the bonus one which we all know about   

Guy Fawkes Night with Bonfire and Fireworks

Yes everyone knows and loves this although in recent times there has been a huge change of heart towards the fireworks with many people trying to get them banned.  Of course, one reason is the safety element but the other is that pets are scared by the constant noise and bangs.   Guy Fawkes did indeed intend to blow up Parliament, aptly named  “ The Gunpowder Plot” The Gunpowder Plot – UK Parliament  and it was only because one of the Members of Parliament got a tip off that poor Guy Fawkes was found out.  Even though he was not successful himself, tradition has followed over the years that we make a bonfire; buy fireworks and stick a “guy” on the top and burn him.  

So there are a few of Britain’s most quirkiest traditions.  Hope you enjoyed reading about them, but better still why not come and visit and improve your English at the same time?