When: 25 May
Competitors from around the world are warming up to join in the fun on Sunday 25 May at the 2014 Maldon Mud Race. The event features 300 fundraising entrants, many of whom will be raising money for local Essex charities, including The J’s Hospice (an Essex-wide charity which supports young people, aged 16-40, with life-limiting conditions.) Join 250 competitors in this mad scramble through the stinking, ink-black mud of the Blackwater Estuary in Essex.
When: 26 May
A passion for cheese is imperative for this Cheese Rolling annual event which involves daredevils hurling themselves down the steep, grassy slopes of Coopers Hill, near Gloucester, in pursuit of Double Gloucester cheeses. There are downhill races throughout the afternoon including ones for men and for women. The race starts with the master of ceremonies rolling a 7 – 8 lb (4kg) Double Gloucester cheese down the hill with dozens of competitors running, rolling and somersaulting down the hill after it.
When: 30 May
The Cotswold Olimpicks were founded by local barrister, Captain Robert Dover, in 1612 at Dover's Hill, above Chipping Campden. The annual event attracts thousands of spectators and features some well-known countryside games such as tug-of-war, obstacle races and wrestling, as well as a few bizarre ones, including shin-kicking. This involves two contestants who first fill their trouser legs with straw to help reduce the pain. The players then hold arms and kick each other using steel-toe capped boots until one of the contestants is so bruised that he cannot stand the pain and admits defeat (although the rules have been since amended to make it a bit safer– steel toe caps are now banned!)
When: 19 July
Ready, Steady, Slow! More than 300 snail slug it out for the title of ‘Fastest Snail in the World’ at the World Snail Racing Championships which have been held at Congham, near King's Lynn, in Norfolk, for over 25 years. Anyone with a snail can enter and a number of heats are held before the grand final. The winner receives a silver tankard stuffed with lettuce. The world record is currently held by a snail called Archie who completed the 13-inch course (set up on top of a table) in two minutes.
When: 12-13 July
The Birdman is a flight competition for human-powered flying machines held each summer in the picturesque seaside resort of Worthing on England’s south coast. Many flyers take part to raise money for charities; others design complex machines to aim for the distance prizes. A substantial prize of £30,000 is offered for the furthest flight in excess of the challenge distance of 100 metres. The event attracts contestants from all over the world. The Birdman competition started in 1971 along the coast in Selsey and then spent 29 years in Bognor Regis before relocating to Worthing in 2008.
When: August, dates TBC
The teams competing for the title, slip and slide about in lukewarm gravy with team members winning points for pinning the opposition down in the gravy. This event started in 2007 and brings out the crowds in force to laugh at the proceedings, while TV cameras and the press often record the event for audiences across the globe from Australia to America. The winners will receive the glittering trophy and wallow in fame - if not fortune.
When: 29 June
At the World Egg Throwing Championships, contestants have to construct a gravity-powered egg-hurling device to launch an egg to a waiting team member. Distances to be achieved start at 30 meters but can be extended up to 150 in the knock-out competition. Another activity that takes place on the day is the Russian Egg Roulette where two participants select from five hard boiled eggs and one raw egg which they have to smash them on to their own foreheads.
When: 12 July
Tension rises as the World Pea Shooting Festival in Witcham grows closer. Now in its 43rd year, the competition started as a means of fundraising for the village of Witcham near Ely in Cambridgeshire but has progressed to receive international recognition with contenders coming from as far afield as the USA. Skill will shoot one expert marksman (or woman) into the slot of World Champion, while the runners-up can commiserate at the village fete that accompanies the festivities.
When: 2 August
Who has the fastest hen? This important question has given rise to an annual event in Derbyshire. Head to the Barley Mow pub in Bonsall to discover this year’s speediest fowl as they’re put through their paces over a 30 feet track. Enjoy breath-taking views of the Peak District and some good local ale while the hens compete for the title.
When: 7 June
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when the residents of Marshwood came up with a plan to put their village on the map. ‘Now, we need something really original.’ ‘We’ve got lots of weeds… How about a nettle-eating competition?’ ‘That’s it!’ ‘Erm, I was joking.’ ‘Never mind, we’re doing it.’ However it came about, the bizarre and entertaining ritual takes place at the Bottle Inn, set near Dorset’s stunning Jurassic Coast.