Did you know that pulling a funny face was a competitive sport? And you’ve no doubt heard of the Grand National, but have you ever placed your bets on the Big Sheep Grand National? If the answer is no, we’ve got the lowdown on the weirdest competitions this country has to offer.
From wacky races to custard-covered faces, here are 12 of the most brilliantly bonkers competitions in the UK (in no particular order).
For the last 49 years, the World Custard Pie Championships have been taking place in the pretty village of Coxheath. Every June, competitors from all over the world gather at the recreation ground to see the teams of custard pie-throwers battle to the bitter, or should we say, sticky, end. The rules are simple: pies must be thrown with the left hand and points are awarded depending on where they land on the body – a full six marks are awarded for a pie in the face. Expect clowning around, fierce competition and a hilarious day out.
Want to see if you’ve got the chops to complete a Royal Marines obstacle course? Well, now’s your chance. If you’re an obstacle course novice, go for the 4k Cheerfulness course. It’s not as tough as the other courses, but you’ll still need a good sense of humour and be willing to wade through mud. Why not dress up in a wacky outfit to make it extra-fun and raise even more for charity? For something a little more demanding, go for the 10k Courage course. But if you really want to push yourself, brave the 17k Determination course and get an insight into what it’s like to be a Royal Marine being put through their paces.
Beds are involved, but there’s no time for napping when you’re taking part in the Great Knaresborough Bed Race! The 2.4 mile course may seem short, but the added complication is that the teams of six must carry a bed with a passenger on. Competitors must make their way over a steep grassy bank, cobblestones and a bridge before swimming through the icy waters of the River Nidd. This amazing spectacle has been attracting competitors and wooing audiences since 1966. There’s also a prize for the best dressed team, so you’ve got plenty of time before next June to get your outfits sorted!
No prizes for guessing what mode of transport this quirky race involves. The Oxted Pram Race has been going since 1977 and competitors raise money for local charities while having a whale of a time pushing a friend in a pram around the two-thirds-of-a-mile course. Starting at Master Park, the plucky participants wheel their way through the town with pit stops at seven licensed premises on the way where they have to down a drink as quickly as possible! You might be a little wobbly by the end, but this race isn’t about winning – it’s all about taking part and having fun.
If you’re one of those people who can’t resist picking up a pebble on the beach and skimming it across the sea, then this is the competition for you. Every September, stone-skimmers from around the world, of any age and skill, are invited to take part. The stones used must be no more than 3 inches in diameter and formed naturally of Easdale slate, and skims are judged on the distance thrown, rather than number of bounces. Awards include the World Stone Skimming Cup, which is presented to the overall winner, the Puffer Trophy for the winning team and the Old Tosser Walking Stick for contestants over 60 with the longest skim.
After a brief hiatus, the Great Christmas Pudding Race is set to return in 2016 and it looks like it’ll be the plumpest and juiciest yet. Teams of six pay an entry fee of £60 and commit to raising a minimum of £300 in sponsorship that goes to Cancer Research UK; so you can have a fun-filled, festive day out and raise money for charity at the same time. Competitors complete a relay obstacle course carrying a Christmas pudding while creating a Mr Potato Head on their pudding. There’s a Zumba warm-up, Santa’s grotto and Victorian Christmas carolers to keep up morale.
You might have had a flutter in the past on the Grand National, but have you ever placed your bets at the Big Sheep Grand National? Well, now’s your chance! Every April, the Big Sheep farm park hosts its highlight in the sheep race calendar where six sheep and their jockeys battle it out to win the Practical Cup. The sheepstakes are high, so pick your favourite and keep your fingers crossed while you watch the exciting event. If you can’t make the Big Sheep Grand National in April, normal sheep races take place every day at 3.50pm.
The great thing about Pooh Sticks is that anyone can play – there are no specialist skills required! Simply collect your stick from the Keeper of the Sticks area and then head to the bridge to complete. You might get to meet the man himself, Winnie the Pooh, while you’re there. You’ll want to make a day of it and treat yourself to some tea and cake, ice-cream or maybe some fudge, all available at the event. There’s a barbecue, bar and bouncy castle, and to top it all off, the Witney Music Festival will be showcasing performers in the afternoon. The event takes place each June.
Every year, on the second Sunday in October, the picturesque village of Ashton in Northamptonshire is home to the world-famous conker championships. The event, which has been taking place since 1965, is a celebration of the classic childhood game which has been treasured by children for years. Competitors play on eight white podiums in the playing arena until the winner is victorious. They then have the honor of sitting on the Conker Throne and being crowned with conkers. The event has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds over the years for charities for the blind and visually impaired, so this is fun-filled day out for a very worthwhile cause.
Ever been warned when pulling a face as a child that, “if the wind changes, you’ll stay like that”? Well, competitors at the Gurning World Championships are throwing caution to the… wind! The aim of the game is to contort your face into the most grotesque shapes possible with a horse collar, or ‘braffin’, around your neck. The ugliest gurner is then announced as the winner. The competition is held at the Egremont Crab fair situated on the West Cumbrian coast. The fair was first held in 1267 and other traditional events, such as the pipe smoking competition, still take place to this day.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a competitor in the Birdman challenge! This flight competition for human powered flying machines is a spectacle not to be missed. Competitors run off an elevated ramp 20 to 35 feet high at the end of a pier and attempt to ‘fly’ the furthest distance. It doesn’t matter whether your flying machine is fit to rival the Wright brothers or you’re just dressed as a penguin taking a giant leap, the event is a fun challenge for everyone involved. Raising money for charity is also a big part of the event.
The annual Stilton Cheese rolling event takes place every year in, you guessed it, Stilton! The village gave its name to the creamy blue cheese and this tasty event has been taking place since the mid-20th century. The cheeses are rolled through the village until reaching the finish line drawn at the crossroads between the bottom of Fen Street and Church Street. As well as the event itself, you’ll find Maypole dancing, live music, traditional fenland ‘Molly’ dancing, fairground rides, delicious food and much, much more.