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On your marks for the Braughing Wheelbarrow Race

PUBLISHED: 10:05 02 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:05 02 July 2019

There are races and courses for different age groups as well as the full-tilt adult dash around a 400m course involving downing six pints and wading through the ford (photo: Emma Wood/Alamy Stock Photo)

There are races and courses for different age groups as well as the full-tilt adult dash around a 400m course involving downing six pints and wading through the ford (photo: Emma Wood/Alamy Stock Photo)

Credit: Emma Wood / Alamy Stock Photo

To any visitor, Braughing is a bucolic idyll. But in July each year a peculiar tradition sees the East Herts village go a little bonkers

The renowned Braughing Sausage was first created in 1954. Ten years later, the village saw another great invention - the Braughing Wheelbarrow Race.

Costumes and themes have evolved over the years, yet this madcap race remains true to its founding principles - drinking beer is mandatory, and getting wet is guaranteed. Competitors and winners are known to regale pub companions with tales of how they went through helland high water to garner glory and praise.

This year's race takes place on Saturday July 13. The rules are simple but strict - teams of two have to consume a total of six pints of beer during the race, the wheelbarrow can only have one wheel, and each team must take turns as both barrow rider and pusher. The course is a 400 metre circuit through the village, part of it uphill, and it begins and ends at (and usually in) the village ford.

There are prizes for best dressed barrows and teams, and races for adults and children. You can compete from the age of six, but for the younger racers, the prescribed tipple is squash.

View from a race winner

Ben Lott first took part in the Braughing Wheelbarrow Race with his friend Charlie Brooke when he was 13. Ben is currently preparing for this year's race with co-pilot Ed Anderson with whom he has won three times. Their theme and costumes are still under wraps.

'This year our theme is likely to be topical and it could involve cross-dressing,' Ben explains. 'In 2002 our barrow was the World Cup Wagon and it rained so much that while we were racing the papier-mâché was disintegrating and bits were dropping off.'

The children's races are fancy dress too (photo: Emma Wood/Alamy Stock Photo)The children's races are fancy dress too (photo: Emma Wood/Alamy Stock Photo)

So just what makes a wheelbarrow winner?

'Athletic prowess and being a good boozer,' says Ben. 'You have to drink at least three pints each. A good training regime is going for a run then going to the pub. For the race itself, you start by wading through the ford - which is deep - and downing a beer. Then you stop for pints along the way - there are different stops. One of the rules is that you have to take turns. I prefer to push. I don't like sitting in the barrow because you're not in control.'

Advice for anyone competing for the first time?

'Don't take it too seriously. And you'll have flour thrown at you. It's great fun and the highlight of the year.'

View from a committee member and race organiser

Jess Tatlow is the chef at The Golden Fleece in Braughing, the award-winning pub she owns and runs with her husband Pete.

Jess has lived in Braughing all her life and has many happy childhood memories of the wheelbarrow race.

The adult race starts and ends at the village ford (photo: Emma Wood/Alamy Stock Photo)The adult race starts and ends at the village ford (photo: Emma Wood/Alamy Stock Photo)

'You can practise before the race with an empty wheelbarrow and sacks of corn,' she says. 'There's an element of controlled danger. As a child I remember the excitement of waiting to see the racers in fancy dress, and knowing that you were allowed to be a bit naughty. We would spend days making flour bombs. You have to separate tissues into single ply and then you put a tablespoon of flour in the middle of the paper and tie it up with cotton.'

'It's not just a race. It's part of the village fair. There's a falconry display, dog show, stalls and a climbing wall. The whole community gets involved.

'At the ford, Andy Dearman at Dearman Developments creates a dam with poles and barriers and the water builds up. Children can float in the water on inflated inner tubes. Pat Taylor donates the sand so that we can have a beach. There's lots of parking and there's a bar so some people do like to leave their cars here overnight.

'When the race first took place in 1964, there were so many more pubs in the village and it used to start and finish at the Adam and Eve in Hay Street. The race has taken place in torrential rain and glorious sunshine. It's always a wonderful event.'

What you need to know...

This year's races take place on Saturday July 13 as part of a village summer festival from 12-6pm.

Food is available from stalls and pubs: The Golden Fleece, The Axe and Compasses, and The Brown Bear.

Around 2,500 people are expected to attend the race and fair.

Douglas White and his wife Anna (D White Butchers) put Braughing on the map in 1954 when they made the first Braughing Sausage. The business is now owned by Musk's in Newmarket which will be at the race serving the prized bangers.

The 'recipe' for flour bombs to throw at racers is online at braughingwheelbarrowrace.com

The event raises money for charities and recently funded a defibrillator for the village.

More mad races around the UK

Copper's Hill Cheese-Rolling injuries are common as competitors chase a double Gloucester down a steep hill in Brockworth. At this year's event in May, an organiser ended up in A&E.

The World Snail Championships take place in Congham, Norfolk in July. Not as dramatic as the cheese rolling.

Hen Racing Championship is described as the 'Monty Python of events', the Derbyshire race takes place in Bonsall in August.

The World Pooh Sticks Championships in Witney was founded in 1984. It's on a break this year but promises to be back with a vengeance in 2020.

The Great Knaresborough Bed Race has taken place every year in June since 1966.

Shrewsbury Wacky Races in Shropshire attracted 15,000 people to the first event in May, Next year's date is already in the diary.

The World Worm Charming Championships celebrates it's 40th anniversary in Nantwich at the end of June. Contestants compete to extract as many worms from a field as possible, without digging.

Fancy dress pancake races take place on Shrove Tuesday through the streets of Hitchin and St Albans in Herts to raise money for local charities.

The Wife Carrying Race in Dorking, Surrey resulted in a marriage proposal on the finish line between the winners in March. Most couples favour the 'Estonian hold' where the 'wife' being carried hangs upside down on the carrier's back.

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