Last Monday, I spent the afternoon watching the annual Woolsack Races in Prince Charles’s neighbourhood – Tetbury (although the man himself was rather tied up with his mother’s jubilee celebrations to attend!).
The races involve men, women and children racing each other 240 yards up and down the town’s Gumstool Hill, whilst carrying sacks of wool on their backs. The hill is steep; the sacks – at least in the adults’ case – heavy; and there were a few falls and scrapes amongst competitors this year.
The competition is said to derive from drovers’ attempts to impress local women in the 17th century, although the modern version of the race is a mere 39 years old. However, it’s appropriate that the races have a wool-related element, given the town’s history as a prestigious wool market in medieval times.
This is just one of the Cotswold traditions that I love – and I seem to have agreed to take part with a friend next year. So watch out, Tetbury, I may be embarrassing myself in public in your town in 2013!