England’s Unusual Charm

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
competitors in the Maldon Mud Race

competitors in the Maldon Mud Race

England has many attractions. Some are scenic, some historic, some are spectacular and some…. Well some don’t easily fit into any category at all. The English sense of ‘fun’ can sometimes be a little eccentric – and that’s putting it mildly – and at times that does make for some unique occasions. One such example is The Maldon Mud race, held each year on the banks of the River Blackwater in Essex.

We all know how seriously the Brits take their sport: ask anyone from the UK and they’ll happily tell you that their islands are the original home of soccer, golf, tennis, boxing, cricket, rugby, the modern Olimpicks (note the spelling!), Formula 1, table tennis and plenty more besides. Needless to say you can find plenty of these sports taking place up and down the country to this day.

But the Maldon Mud race is a peculiar hybrid of that British enthusiasm for sport combined with their desire to be silly. Runners typically compete in fancy dress. If Monty Python had had a hand in devising the Olympic Games, the Maldon Mud Race would be in there.

well, it is a mud race!

well, it is a mud race!

Initiated in 1973 as a light-hearted bet the race involves a 400 yard ‘dash’ across the swampy estuary of the Blackwater. It has grown over the years to the point where it attracts over 300 hundred entries and over 25,000 spectators. In the process it has become a significant source of charity fundraising with over £55,000 generated in 2014 alone. It has also put the sleepy town of Maldon on the tourist map.

The fastest recorded time for that 400 yard trip across the river is three and a half minutes. There is no record for the slowest time, although, so far, no-one has gone missing during the event. Several competitors have been rendered unrecognisable by the gloopy, black mud of the estuary, but a quick rub down with a clean towel has, so far, been sufficient to resolve all cases of unidentified creatures dragging themselves out of the mire.

Quite why the natives of southern England should be so keen to dress up as penguins, prehistoric monsters and nuns (there are always a surprising number of nuns involved) as a precursor to throwing themselves headlong into the Blackwater’s uniquely muddy estuary remains a mystery. It is however an undeniably British way to go about having a good time. The race offers a rare glimpse into the often inscrutable make-up of the British character.

To be fair to the Brits, the event now regularly attracts entrants from all around the world. Like Monty Python and the Olympics, the race has become a global phenomenon.

We should add that there is no shortage of equally odd-ball festivals that take place up and down England’s green and pleasant land. They are not the sort of thing that anyone would typically go out of their way for, but if you do happen to stumble across one on your travels you won’t be disappointed. Events such as the Stilton Cheese Rolling Championships “(which, this year, take place on May 4th, the May bank holiday in the Cambrdgeshire village of Stilton just off the A1)” or the Swamp Soccer World Cup are amongst those to be found dotted around what has always been a slightly dotty set of islands.


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