8 quirky Cotswold traditions you really do have to see to believe…

Competitors bounce down Cooper's Hill in pursuit of the cheese (Last Updated On: January 14, 2019)

Beautiful views, delicious food, charming towns and some very unusual traditions…

The Cotswolds is world renowned for its exceptional countryside and fantastic walks, but perhaps less so for its bizarre local traditions and customs that have been passed down through the generations. We’ve compiled a list of the weird and wonderful Cotswold traditions taking place this year, so you can experience a slice of English eccentricity. If you think you’ve seen it all, think again!

Randwick Wap

Where: Randwick, near Stroud

When:  Saturday 11th May

This revived ancient festival dates back to the Middle Ages, and you really couldn’t make it up. A colourful procession of residents guide an elected Wap Queen and Mayor through the village, accompanied by various officials including the Mop-Man who clears the way by throwing water at the crowds! After the Mayor is dipped in the pond, (yes, really) cheeses that have been blessed the previous week at a special outdoor service are rolled down the hill before being divided and eaten. The procession then heads down to the Village Hall, where presentations are made, and everyone gets to enjoy a traditional English country fayre, with stalls, a coconut shy and welly wanging. If you like bread and butter pudding, be sure not to miss out on the unique Wiput cake!

Cottages near Stroud. 

Part of the Wap procession with water buckets

Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling

Where: Cooper’s Hill, Brockworth

When: Monday 27th May

Of all the unique Cotswold traditions, this is undoubtedly the most famous. The adrenaline-packed race pulls spectators from all over the world and has acquired quite a reputation! Competitors race after the huge 8lb Double Gloucester cheese wheel down the almost vertical slope, with very few remaining on their feet by the time they reach the bottom! The event has become so popular that several heats are now held, however it remains free for anybody to watch, or even partake in. Be warned though, it’s not one for the faint-hearted, casualties from bumps and bruises to broken bones are to be expected!

Cottages near Brockworth. 

Competitors rolling down the hill in pursuit of the cheese

Tetbury Woolsack Races

Where: Tetbury Town Centre and Gumstool Hill

When: Monday 27th May

Formerly home to one of the best wool and yarn markets in the country, this race is as much about celebrating Tetbury’s heritage as it is about proving who’s the strongest competitor. Dating back to the 17th Century, the idea of wool sack racing was born from drovers who would run up a steep hill with a very heavy sack of wool in a bid to impress the local ladies! Men’s sacks weigh 60lb while women’s way 35lb, and they must carry their sack above their head as they run the 240-yard course up and down Gumstool Hill as part of a relay. Although it’s free admission, with plenty of stalls, amusements and a fabulous street fayre, this event has raised a lot of money for charity in the past and is always hosted by a guest celebrity – watch this space!

Cottages near Tetbury.

Robert Dover’s Cotswold Olimpick Games

Where: Dover’s Hill, Chipping Campden

When: Friday 31st May

Founded by local lawyer Robert Dover, with the approval of King James VI in 1612, this ancient annual sporting event has been held on and off by residents for centuries. Don’t be fooled though, this is no ordinary Games, we are in the Cotswolds after all. Events include Championship of the Hill, an unusual relay race that uses objects such as wheelbarrows, hay bales, and dustbins, as well as the classic tug o’war and most famously, shin kicking! This ‘sport’ has been around since the original games in 1612, which sees opponents hold each other by the shoulders while landing their best kick. Thankfully a few more rules have been implemented since the 17th Century…

Tickets are available online, in local shops beforehand, and from the gate on the day.

Cottages near Chipping Campden. 

A pair of shin kickers competing in front of spectators

Bourton Football in the River

Where: River Windrush, Bourton-on-the-Water

When: Monday 26th August

Another sporting event with a twist, this traditional village event dates back almost 100 years! Two teams of six take to Bourton’s normally peaceful and idyllic River Windrush, which for one day day only becomes an aqua pitch for a boisterous and lively match cheered on by the spectators. The water is only ankle deep but do not underestimate its splash capacity – bring your waterproofs!

Cottages near Bourton-on-the-Water.

Crowds enjoying the football in the river

Bibury Duck Race

Where: River Coln, Bibury

When:  Thursday 26th December (Boxing Day)

Every year on Boxing Day, crowds flock to the River Coln in beautiful Bibury to witness an extraordinary event. At 11am, up to 150 realistic decoy ducks are released down the river as part of Bibury’s annual Duck Race with crowds cheering as their ducks bob over the finishing line first. Spectators can sponsor a duck for £10, which goes to the chosen charity of the winner. Shortly after, the second race takes place, where 2,000 yellow rubber ducks are raced, and can be sponsored for £1 each. Guaranteed fantastic prizes for the first 20 – and even the very last duck to cross the line!

Cottage near Bibury.

Some of the 2,000 yellow plastic ducks floating at Bibury

Marshfield Mummers

Where: The Market Place, Marshfield

When: Thursday 26th December (Boxing Day)

A sight to behold, every Boxing Day at 11am the town crier leads a procession of the Marshfield Mummers – dressed in the traditional costumes covered in strips of paper – through the streets of the village before performing the Ancient Marshfield Mumming Play, which features characters such as Father Christmas, Saucy Jack and Old Father Beelzebub. Perhaps what makes this folk play so special is that no part of the script or songs are written down, instead it is passed through the generations by word of mouth.

A mummer in traditional dress

© www.marshfieldmummers.co.uk

Stroud Wassail

Where: Stroud Town Centre, Subscription Rooms

When: Saturday 11th January 2020

Unfortunately, the Stroud Wassail has already come and passed this year, but it will be back early in 2020! Designed to bring the community together, the folklore tradition wishes health and success to all for the coming year through a series of smaller events throughout December, culminating in a day of street entertainment and a procession on the second Saturday in January.

Cottage near Stroud. 

Wassailers performing in the street

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