No-ones does eccentricity quite like England, and the early May bank holiday is when you’ll be able to see a whole load of weird and wonderful fetes and fairs celebrating the coming of spring. Feather crowns and trouser bells at the ready folks…
Nope this isn’t a strange Downton Abbey spin off, this is an olde-worlde maypole-and-Morris-dancing knees-up celebrating the arrival of the cuckoo with spring in the picturesque village of Downton, six miles south of Salisbury. There'll also be Punch and Judy performances and live bands playing in the village pub to celebrate the fair.
Green is most definitely the new black in Hastings come May Day. Dressed in a giant green garland-cum-Christmas tree, Jack leads a procession through town before he’s slain and the Spirit of Spring is set free. Although this may sound a little ominous, it’s essentially an excuse for a street party to welcome in the warmer weather.
It’s highly likely that the Chim Chim Cher-ee song from Mary Poppins will play on loop in your head at Sweeps Day, a Victorian-themed festival in Rochester celebrating the bygone profession of chimney sweeping – that explains the sooted faces! If hundreds of Dick Van Dyke lookalikes don’t do it for you, the festival also hosts what’s thought to be the largest gathering of Morris Dancers in the world.
Minds out of the gutter please; a Dorset Knob is actually a hard savoury biscuit, and whoever throws it the furthest wins. This eccentric sports day in the village of Cattistock near Dorchester also includes unique events like pin the Dorset Knob on to the Cerne Giant. Ooh err!
The oldest May Day celebration in England is a sight that wouldn’t look out of place on the streets of Spain’s basque country. Every year, more than 30 thousand people head to the harbour town of Padstow to catch a glimpse of a fearsome Oss, swirling through the town dressed in a six-foot wide black circular mask, followed by a large crowd of musicians and dancers.
Flower power reigns in Helston when this colourful event blooms across the town in early May. Pretty much every shop could be mistaken for a florist as swathes of flowers decorate the streets, an ancient tradition that dates hundreds of years and marks the arrival of the vitality and fertility that spring ushers in.
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