Competitors running down the hill at the 2019 cheese-rolling event at Cooper’s Hill, Gloucester.

6 eccentric and unusual sports you can take part in across the UK

The UK has a long history of sports and games, from jousting or local folk games to the emergence of modern sports like football and tennis in the 18th and 19th centuries.

On 30 September, National Sports Heritage Day celebrates sporting culture and aims to inspire people to be more active and try something new.

To mark the occasion, there will be special sporting events, efforts to raise awareness for local teams, and a chance to reminisce over old photographs.

While you may fondly remember the success of the 2012 London Olympics or the time your local football team played a blinder in a cup match, there are plenty of unusual sports and games that take place across the UK too.

Many of the quirky sporting traditions are now used to raise money for local charities and bring communities together. Here are six eccentric options you can watch, or even take part in!

1. World Tin Bath Championship

Every year in the middle of July, people take to Castletown Harbour on the Isle of Man to secure the coveted title of World Tin Bath Champion – and who wouldn’t want to win that? Surprisingly, it attracts entrants from all over the world!

The course is 400 metres and contestants must race to see who can cross the finish line first. But it’s not just about speed – going too fast could mean the tin bath sinks.

Going back to 1971, the charity event has become a family fun-day out with lots of novelty events taking place throughout the day. The “snake race” sees people racing around the harbour and there are attempts at human-powered flights to watch.

2. Caber toss

The Highland Games are iconic and have been part of Scotland’s culture for hundreds of years. You can find Highland Games across Scotland throughout the summer months. As well as competitions, you’ll usually find dancing, music and craft stalls.

One of the games is the caber toss. The caber is usually made from a larch tree and can be as tall as 6 metres and weigh around 70 kilograms. The competitors must toss it end over end. However, the aim isn’t to throw it as far as possible. Instead, the thrower aims to toss the caber directly in front of them in a 12 o’clock position.

It’s said the sport originated from lumberjacks tossing logs into streams to transport them, which turned into a competition among workers.

3. World Poohsticks Championship

Inspired by the game the characters play in A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, the Rotary Club of Oxford Spire organises the event every year. It’s a game you may see at other summer events across the country, and it’s also simple enough to play on a family day out.

To play, find a bridge that’s over water, and search for the perfect stick that will lead you to victory. Once all the competitors are armed with sticks, count down and toss them into the river – the stick that floats underneath the bridge fastest wins.

Around 1,000 people attend the event in Oxford each year to raise money for charity.

4. Bog snorkelling

Every August bank holiday, the small town of Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales hosts a bog snorkelling competition.

The contestants must navigate a course that’s around 100 metres long. It’s cold and dark, and while many opt to wear wetsuits, you will see some brave, or foolhardy, contestants in fancy dress or even just speedos. If the event doesn’t sound bizarre enough already, you’re also not allowed to use a recognised swimming stroke.

The current record was set in 2018 and is 1 minute 18.82 seconds – do you think you could beat that time? For people that really want a challenge, there’s a bog triathlon too.

5. Cheese rolling

The annual cheese roll at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester has enjoyed global fame after videos were shared online.

The challenge sounds simple – chase a 9lb double Gloucester cheese wheel, and if you’re able to catch the cheese or cross the finish line first, you win. However, the steep hill and the fact that the cheese can reach speeds of up to more than 70 mph means it’s more difficult than it first appears.

The event was first written about in 1826 but the tradition is thought to be at least 600 years old. There are lots of theories about why the tradition started, from grazing rights to a ritual. Today, it attracts people from all over the world that want to take part in the quirky event.

With a 1:2 gradient, it’s not surprising that there have been plenty of injuries over the years as people race down the hill – this is definitely a competition you should enter with caution.

6. Pancake racing

Shrove Tuesday might be associated with tucking into pancakes to mark the start of Lent, but have you ever taken part in a pancake race?

Pancake racing events are often found in villages or towns as part of community events, and their origins go back to Olney, Buckinghamshire, in 1445. The Olney event is open to women over the age of 18 that have lived in the town for at least three months. To compete, they must wear a skirt, apron, and head covering.

As the name suggests, you have to run a race while carrying a frying pan with a pancake in it, stopping along the way to flip it – predictably, some pancakes make it to the finish line more intact than others!

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