Updated December 15, 2012
Boxing Day in Britain, the day after Christmas, is traditionally the day when sports fans, English eccentrics and mad party people all hit the fresh air at once.
Take Beagling for example, a typical country activity on Boxing Day. I once went along to this kind of event on an estate in Northern Ireland. The local hunt's pack of hounds was set loose to chase a dragged scent - or trail. Everyone else chased the hounds over hill and dale, fields and fences.
There were a few frightfully keen chaps and gels who raced by, apparently believing they could actually catch up with the dogs (erm, the "hounds" actually) but most of us were stragglers, a rag tag mob of muddy ramblers spread out over what felt like several counties. It was a good enough excuse for a hearty post-Christmas walk with the chance of a nice tea and a slice of Christmas Cake at the end of it. I lost my wellies while attempting to cross a plowed field diced into chunks the size of suitcases and had to be rescued.
Riding to the Hounds
Traditionally, Boxing Day is a time for set piece sports and outdoor activities - fox hunts (now under new rules), horse races and football matches. There are a slew of Premiership football (soccer) matches with most of the UK's top teams facing each other. And, despite the law restricting fox hunting since 2005, Boxing Day meets still take place. The rules are different but the spectacle, for non participants, looks much the same. The Masters of Foxhounds Association, Telephone: +44 (0)1285 653001, is once again publishing a list of hunts who engage in fox hunting within the law around the country along with their websites and contact details. The individual hunts publish their own Boxing Day meets all over the country so if you are keen to see this colorful event, search around those websites for meet information.
The Sport of Kings
If you enjoy watching horses jump over hedges and ditches, a less controversial activity might be one of the many Boxing Day racing meets, most of which are steeplechase or jumping events. Racing meets, often with entertainment and even children's activities are scheduled for:
- Kempton Park near London
- Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire
- Market Rasen in Lincolnshire
- Towcester in Northamptonshire
- Wetherby in Yorkshire
- Wincanton between Bristol and Bournemouth
- Wolverhampton near Birmingham
My favorites, though, are events - like that surreal day spent beagling - that bring out the totally daft in people. In Tenby, on the Pembrokeshire coast of Wales, hundreds of people dress up in funny costumes for the annual Tenby Boxing Day Swim at North Beach. It's been going on since 1970 and has raised thousands of pounds for charity. Hundreds of swimmers brave the wintry waters. In 2012, the fancy dress theme is "Sporting Heroes" so expect to see plenty of "Olympians" and maybe even a Tour de France winner. and there will be prizes for discovering the Boxing Day Scarlet Swimpernel Mascot.
But you'd have to go pretty far to beat the silliness of the annual Rubber Ducky Race run by the Lions Club in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. Punters pay £1 for a rubber duck and then cheer theirs along as it "swims" along Finham Brook from Kenilworth Castle Ford, across Abbey Fields to the finish. It all kicks off at noon on Boxing Day. The money goes to charities and there are cash prizes for the first few rubber duckies that win, place and show.
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