English Eccentricity Continued Part 3 – The Cotswold Olimpicks

May 29, 2014


Far be it for me to ignore the request of a lady, who suggested that I should continue my quest to explain or try to explain some of the other eccentric pastimes that we, (and I use the word ‘we’ extremely loosely in this context ) get up to here in the Gloucestershire hills.

Cue, Big Roll of Drums LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I give you the Cotswold Olimpicks which, unlike the lesser known Greek event, takes place annually on Dover’s Hill in the beautiful village of Chipping Campden.

With amazing events such as ‘Tug of War,’ ‘Climbing the Un-climbable Ladder,’ ‘Wellie Wanging,’ ‘Dwile Flonking’ and of course I mustn’t forget ‘Shin Kicking.’
It’s when I get to this point in my stories, you know the bit where you have a quick read of what you have written thus far, it’s usually about now that I shake my head and think, ‘OK smart ass, how are you going to explain that lot to an International readership that already think we Brits are a bag of fries short of a Happy Meal ?

As far as I can establish the first Cotswold Olimpick games was organised in 1612 by a lawyer chap named Robert Dover.

There are mixed explanations as to why but it may have something to do with the Monarch of the time, King James I (King James VI of Scotland) trying to pretend he was one of us, like they do. When he wrote; “ that in order to promote good feeling among the common people towards their king”,( eg him), “certain days in the year would be appointed, for delighting the people with public spectacles of all honest games, and exercise of arms.”

Of course, it is quite possible that there may also have been a military purpose to all this frivolity in the belief that physical exercise was necessary to maintain the men fit for the defence of the Kingdom. (Again meaning the King) “Some of you may die but it is a sacrifice I am willing to make.”

Needless to say the Puritans frowned upon such activities and the festivities that accompanied them, claiming them to be of Pagan origin and promoted nothing more than drunkenness and immoral doings. (Were those people ever happy I wonder)?

Anyway, then as now, the games took place in a natural amphitheatre called Kingcombe Plain, now renamed Dover’s Hill in honour of Robert Dover, over the Whit weekend, late May early June, and presided over by Dover himself mounted on horseback dressed ceremonially in a coat, hat, feather and ruff, donated by King James himself.
The modern day revival of the games goes back to 1965 with the formation of The Robert Dover’s Games Society and they have been held annually ever since on the evening of the Friday after Spring Bank Holiday.

Here endeth the history lesson, so let us away to the games themselves;

Dwile Flonking.

dwyle flonking

This, in case there are any true officiators of Dwile Flonking reading this is a simplified version of the game, truly you have to see it to believe it.
Two teams are involved one team, the fielders, form a circle around a single player (the flonker) from the other team. The flonker is armed with a two foot stick and at his feet is a large bucket of beer with a cloth (the dwile) in the bucket.

The game starts with the fielders dancing in one direction while the flonker spins in the other direction. The flonker snags the dwile with the stick and flongs it over his head at the fielders. (and no I’m not making this up as I go along).

Points are scored for a hit, there are different points to be had based upon which part of the anatomy is hit.

Two misses by the flonker is called a pot at which time he is required to dip a pot into the bucket of beer, drink it at a single draft and leave the field.


Each team member takes a turn a being the flonker and when all are out the teams change places.

In cases where no team scores an outright winning score it may be necessary for a second round in that case the last team standing may be declared the winner, assuming by that time anyone is left standing.
dwile 2

For added fun it is permissible for the flonker to be blindfolded.

Welly Wanging

pink welly

Welly Wanging is perhaps a little easier to explain since all it requires is the knowledge that a ‘Welly’ is the affectionate name given by the British for the beloved Wellington (Rubber) Boot. Which was once Black but when the Urbanites started migrating back to the countryside for the weekend it turned green, hence the name given by us simple country folk to the Urbanites as the ‘Green Welly Brigade.’ (Hey two history lessons for the price of one).

The skill of Welly Wanging (throwing if you hadn’t worked it out) is all in the technique, and there are many different techniques depending upon which form of wanging you wish to take part in. Single handed, double handed or blind, the rules are fairly straight forward and prizes are awarded for distance, rather than the sheer number of spectators beaned by wayward willies.

Blind Wanging is obviously the most dangerous and therefore much more fun since the Wanger (yes spelt right) faces the opposite direction to the throw and is more likely to make a complete horlicks of the effort and send a high speed boot shaped missile into the spectators. Even more fun is when a blind wang goes straight up and gravity takes a hand in the proceedings to the amusement of all, except perhaps the Wanger.


Welly Wanging is not exclusive to the Cotswolds and there are many different regional variations of this popular pastime.

Now to one of the most spectacular events and probably as painful as it sounds is the ancient sport of ‘Shin Kicking’ and yes there is a World Champion.

shin kicking

This has to be the ultimate in contact sports, each bout is decided by the best of three rounds and competitors start by adopting a shoulder hold, leaving their legs and, more specifically, their shins free to inflict the most damage.

There are few rules and the aim is simple enough, simply stuff as much straw as you can shove in your trousers or socks and deliver a swift kick to the competition.

The winner is whoever manages to bring their opponent to the ground after a series of blows to the shins, the harder you kick, the more likely you are to win.

While modern day shin-kickers leave the arena with a number of cuts and bruises I suppose they should consider themselves lucky that steel toe capped boots were banned from the event in the 1950s after competitors suffered to many broken legs !
As you can see They Really Do Go For it.

In this modern world of Health and Safety legislation and “political correctness” I suppose it is amazing that this 400 year old event is still allowed to take place at all.

However, they are after all supposedly grown men and they don’t have to take part, it’s not compulsory. Although I would urge you that if you fancy seeing the eccentric British at play come visit us soon because I feel sure it is only a matter of time before the modern day Puritans, or as they are know these day, The Politically Correct and their allies the Health and Safety Mob will find a way to stop history forever.

Coming Next Nettle Eating Championships.


4 Responses to “English Eccentricity Continued Part 3 – The Cotswold Olimpicks”

  1. ‘Arr, there be nout like a bit ‘o welly wanging to make day go by.’ Loved it Merlin, there’s nothing like a bit of eccentricity in life. It was probably all of those strange traditions that sent the Puritans off in search of a new life. Do you think they would have had much better relations with the local native population if they indulged in a bit of moccasin tossing?

  2. merlinfraser Says:

    Hi Laurie, long time no chat…. what you up to dude ?

    Not sure if relations between Native American’s and the early interlopers would have been improved or not, the Puritans were not big on having fun as I recall.

    I think the natives would have been happier if the tourists had kept their imported diseases to themselves, bought the souvenirs and then buggered off home.

  3. Jaye Says:

    Delightful description of the Cotswold Olimpicks, and the photos are icing on the cake. While these activities may seem eccentric to those of us ‘across the pond’, I live not far from a small southern U.S. town (Raleigh, Mississippi)that holds a tobacco-spitting contest every year. The 1969 record of 24 feet, 10 1/2 inches has never been bested.

    Texans have several eccentric ‘world championship’ annual contests, including the Watermelon-seed-spitting contest, Rattlesnake-sacking contest, and the Spamorama, which awards prizes for the best-tasting and worst-tasting entries made from the ‘what-is-it’ canned meat Spam.

    In Oklahoma, the big draw is a Cow Chip Throwing contest (yes, there’s a world championship involved there, too.) Colorado gets rid of leftover holiday fruitcakes in January with a Fruitcake Throwing Contest, and Missouri has a Typewriter Toss where old typewriters are dropped 50 feet to a bulls-eye target.

    So you see, Merlin, Americans are pretty eccentric with our extracurricular ‘sporting’ events, too, and we’ve had many less centuries to practice than you Brits.


    • merlinfraser Says:

      Hi Jaye, I don’t think I ever claimed that eccentricity was unique to Britain, just trying to explain some of our more Nutty ones many of which have their origins in past centuries.

      Keep your eyes open there is more to come.

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