Monday, 26 January 2015

11 of the best unusual events in the West Country – part two

Every year across the world, people celebrate some interesting traditions in very unique ways and nowhere does it better than the West Country. Here’s part two of our look at some of the most unusual festivals in our corner of Britain (read part one here)…

Giant Bolster Festival, St Agnes
Every May, the village of St Agnes recreates the story of the Giant Bolster, who terrified the local people and rampaged through the neighbourhood, only to be brought to justice by a fair maiden. In a lively celebration of Cornish music, art and legend, the pageant takes in life-size puppets, dancers and a live band culminating in a spectacular showdown between the Giant Bolster and the knight Sir Constantine. All the while, a 28-foot high effigy of the Bolster watches over proceedings. Saturday evening’s lantern procession takes villagers up to the top of St Agnes Beacon for a bonfire, followed by a barbecue and musical performances.

Flora Day, Helston
Every May, the Cornish market town of Helston celebrates the ancient Flora Day festival (pictured above) to welcome in the springtime. Processional dancing takes place throughout the streets from early morning, when the big bass strikes, until late at night. Men wear top hats and tails and women don elegant dress, while shops and homes across town are adorned in bright, colourful flowers. The Helston Town Band play traditional tunes until the early hours.

Hunting the Earl of Rone, Combe Martin
Every Spring Bank Holiday weekend, the town of Combe Martin escapes into ancient tradition as locals dress in 19th-century peasant costume and roam the streets on the hunt for the ‘Earl of Rone’. Local legend claims that the Earl was Hugh O’Neill (Earl of Tyrone) who fled Ireland in the early 1600s, only to be shipwrecked in the local bay and captured by Grenadiers. The hunt begins on Friday… when Monday comes around and the Earl is ‘found’, he is mounted on a donkey, taken down to the sea and thrown in!

Honiton Hot Pennies day
Back in the 13th century, Honiton was granted a Royal Charter; today, this is celebrated with Hot Pennies day. The town crier - in full historic dress – enters the Old Pannier Market to announce the start of the procession and crowds cram the streets along the route to catch the warm pennies. The pennies give a nod to the days when affluent members of the community would throw hot coins to peasants to watch them burn their fingers.

Totnes Orange Rolling Race
Started by Sir Francis Drake (so legend says) back in the 16th century, the orange rolling race is one of the zaniest – and messiest - of the country’s traditions. The 450-metre dash starts from the top of the hill at Market Square - contestants must throw their orange down the hill and then kick, throw or roll it to the finish line. The winner must arrive with an orange! The event takes place in August and also includes an Elizabethan market and charity auction.

Tar Barrels, Ottery St May
Every November, the East Devon town of Ottery holds the procession of Flaming Tar Barrels. The tradition is hundreds of years old and Ottery is the only place in the West Country where people carry flaming barrels on their shoulders instead of rolling them! There are 17 barrels carried throughout the day, with the final barrel brought into the square at midnight. Ottery’s giant bonfire is a key part of the annual tar barrels and is in itself a dazzling spectacle.

That rounds off our selection of some of the West Country’s most unusual events. Which are your favourites? Which have we missed? Let us know in the comments.

11 of the best unusual events in the West Country

Every year across the world, people celebrate some interesting traditions in very unique ways and nowhere does it better than the West Country. Read on for an intriguing glimpse into the most unusual festivals in our corner of Britain…

Lentsherd in Clovelly
Every year on Shrove Tuesday, the village of Clovelly marks Lentsherd (pictured above). On this day, locals honour the age-old custom of ridding the village of all the negatives of the previous year. When dusk falls, children gather to walk from the town centre down to the harbour, each dragging a tin can attached to a long string. These cans are then thrown into the sea, driving the devil away just in time for Lent to begin. Every child who takes part receives a free pancake decorated with sweet toppings and entry is free after 4.30pm.

St Ives Silver Ball
Over in Cornwall, one of the best-loved local traditions comes in the form of the ‘hurling of the silver ball.’ Celebrated on the 9th February, this tradition is part of the St Ives Feast - a festival that begins with the mayor’s civic procession and blessing in honour of the anniversary of the consecration of the Parish Church of St Eia. The ‘hurling’ event consists of two teams playing a very lively game of old-style rugby to gain possession of the cricket-sized silver ball. The game takes place across the town and the ball has even ended up in the sea on occasion but the ultimate goal is to return the ball to the mayor at midday in front of St Ives Guildhall.

’Obby ‘Oss day
The ‘Obby ‘Oss (Hobby Horse) day is hugely important to the local people in Padstow and Minehead, as it makes up the traditional Mayday celebrations. Dressed in traditional white garb, the crowds cheer on the two ‘obby ‘oss mascots, decked out in colourful masks and costumes. The parades travel through the flower-strewn streets all the way to the maypole, with revellers accompanied by the beat of the drums and the sound of the maysong, and horses escorted by a ‘teaser’ who leads the song and dance in an excitable fashion.

Knob Throwing in Dorset
If you fancy doing something a bit different this year, head on over to Cattistock, Dorset on 3rd May to take part in the annual Knob Throwing event. The “knob” is actually a traditional local biscuit shaped like a sphere, which has been baked in the village since 1880. Participants must (underarm) throw the knob as far as they can – winners receive their biscuit and their name on a plaque in the village hall. The unique event also includes such activities as Knob Darts and Guess The Weight of the Big Knob.

St Piran’s Day
St Piran’s Day honours Cornwall’s patron saint and is such a popular event that locals are campaigning to make it a bank holiday. Legend has it that Piran landed on the shores at Perranporth after being cast to sea by the Irish King, who believed him to be suspicious due to his magical powers. It was here that he built a chapel in the sand dunes and people came to hear him preach. Today St Piran’s Day is celebrated by hundreds of people who make a pilgrimage to Perranporth to watch a re-enactment of his story on the sand dunes.

We’ll post the remaining 6 events next week!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Making waves for charity

We're delighted to share that we raised a remarkable £13,776.91 in 2014 for the Marine Conservation Society, our nominated charity of the year. 

The money was raised through the annual cricket match between Helpful Holidays and neighbouring Gidleigh Park Hotel and the generosity of Helpful Holidays’ customers who have chosen to donate when booking their holidays.

Moray Bowater and Helen Hayes, the Managing Director and PR Manager of Helpful Holidays, met Monty Hall, the BBC wildlife presenter and marine biologist who avidly supports the MCS, at the Marina Hotel in Dartmouth to present the cheque.

Helen said, “We’re privileged to live and work in the wonderful West Country, surrounded by magnificent coastline, so it’s been a pleasure to work closely with the MCS this year. They do a fabulous job in drawing attention to the wonderful creatures living in these waters. They also have a vital role in raising awareness of important issues affecting our coastline. Most of the money raised was through the generosity of holidaymakers who’ve booked cottages with Helpful Holidays and we’d like to express our sincere thanks for their generosity.”

Katherine Stephenson for the Marine Conservation Society said “The Helpful Holidays team truly live up to their name and have got involved in raising funds for our work through cricket matches, cake sales, beach cleans and more. We’ve had a fantastic year with them and their customers, and their support will make such a difference to the conservation of our seas, shores and wildlife in the South West.”