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10 Alternative Easter Events for 2014

Tired of Easter Eggs? Try These

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Easter is the time of year when Britain's seasonal attractions shake off the winter and open their gates to the public. Family attractions, stately homes, castles, adventure parks and zoos all welcome visitors with special events for the Easter Break. Stately homes have Medieval "fayres" and jousting tournaments; Easter Bunnies and popular cartoon characters are everywhere and there's a foil wrapped Easter egg of some kind hiding behind just about every bush in the country.

If Easter eggs aren't your thing - or if you've simply had enough chocolate eggs this year - one of these mildly to wildly alternative Easter options might suit you better.

1. Egg Dancing at Blists Hill Victorian Town

Easter 2014 - click to enlarge
Courtesy of VisitBritain

Join the townsfolk of Blists Hill, egg dancing in their Victorian working town, part of the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage site. Blindfolded villagers take turns dancing across a street trying to avoid the eggs that are placed in their way. After they've demonstrated, you can have a go yourself and win a prize if you succeed in not smashing any eggs. The prize - ah, I was hoping you wouldn't ask. It's an Easter egg.

2. The London Harness Horse Parade

Easter 2014 events - click to enlarge
Jeremy O'Donnell/Getty Images

This annual Easter Monday parade of harness horses, ponies and donkeys began as a way to promote animal welfare among the working horses of London.

Today the event is no longer in London, but takes place at South of England Centre, Ardingly, West Sussex. And with a few exceptions, such as the Shire horses from the Fullers Breweries or the Friesians from Harrods, most are no longer working horses but are kept by hobbyists.

Nevertheless, the exhibition of the wide variety of breeds - Dutch Fresians, Gelderlanders and heavy horses among others - is a real crowd pleaser and draws horses, drivers and spectators from all over Britain and Ireland. Animal welfare is still a primary concern and exhibitors in the parade must comply with a strict set of rules.

3. Easter Rubber Duck Race

Rubber ducks - click to enlarge
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 If you happen to be around the Isle of Wight over Easter, you might want to take a chance on the Yarmouth Easter Saturday Rubber Duck race. A total of 1000 rubber ducks, each with its own unique number, is released on the River Yar. The first four ducks to reach the bridge on the tide are the winners. Numbered tickets are sold around Yarmouth in the run up to the race and if you hold the number of one of the four winning ducks, you win a prize.

 

 

4. Racing Sheep at Castle Howard

Racing Sheep - click to enlarge
Samir Hussein/Getty Images
If racing rubber duckies seems too tame, you might like the racing sheep at Castle Howard, just outside York, April 18 to 21. It may not be the Grand National, but the Lamb National is pretty lively. Sheep with big personalities and names like Woolly Jumper, Sheargar and Red Ram do their steeplechasing best to jump over hurdles and take the course in stride. Sheep dog demonstrations follow and there are Easter Trails around the estate.

 

5. The Easter Bunny Likes Beaulieu's Fast Cars

Easter events 2014 - click to enlarge
Courtesy of VisitBritain

He'll be putting in an appearance at the Hampshire estate, home to the National Motor Museum, over the Easter weekend. Its collection of 250 historic autos includes famous Formula 1 cars, world land-speed record breakers and all kinds of quirky novelties, including - what do you know - a Cadbury Crème Egg car.

A new multi-media exhibition opening Easter weekend, For Britain and for the Hell of It, tells the story of the chase for British land speed records and features many of the cars in the museum's collection. While you're enjoying all that motoring technology, the kids can have their faces painted, chat with the Easter Bunny and follow Easter trails on the estate.

By the way, despite its French origins, Beaulieu is pronounced Bewley.

6. Shakespeare for Kids at the V&A

Shakespeare cartoon
Getty Images

 In honor of Shakespeare's 450th Birthday in 2014, the Victoria and Albert Museum has turned the Easter holiday into a Shakespeare themed festival of things to do for kids. In the Imagination Station, between April 19 and 27, kids can help design the enchanted wood for Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night's Dream. Meanwhile Digital Kids in the museum's digital studio in the Sackler Centre, can stage and perform an animated Shakespeare play on the center's iPads. A Pop-up Performance of Bottom's Dream, for young children, is staged in the Tapestries Gallery, Room 94, on Saturday April 12, Friday to Monday April 18 to 21, Saturday April 26 and Sunday April 27. Theatre collective The Puppet Story presents Shakespeare: The Puppet Show, a musical extravaganze, from April 14 to 19. And lastly, Shakespeare 4 Kidz presents a Midsummer's Night's Dream, three times a day from April 22 to 25.

Except for the puppet show, which has an admission fee, all other events are run on a free, drop-in basis.
 

7. The Blood Bar at the Edinburgh Science Festival

Edinburgh Science Festival
Getty Images
If your kids love the gross and the gooey, they will love the Blood Bar at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, April 5 to 20. They'll be able explore the science of blood while they make their own scabs in the Scab Lab, mix up a blood clot and, in keeping with the festival theme, Science at the Heart of Things, even touch a heart.

 

8. Get Serious With Chocolate

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Stockbyte/Getty Images
York has long been a center of chocolate making in Britain. Once the home of confectioners Rowntrees, Terry's and Craven's, it is still where Nestlé makes 6 million Kit Kat bars a day. To celebrate its chocolate heritage, the city;s Chocolate Festival brings together a program of chocolate dinners, workshops, tastings, lectures, Easter Egg hunts and demonstrations from artisan chocolatiers. In 2014 the festival is on from April 18 to 21.

 

9. Hallaton Hare Pie Scramble and Bottle Kicking

This is one of those English village traditions that has existed for so long that nobody really knows why. On Easter Monday a "Warrener", carrying a hare-topped staff, leads a procession to the village church where bread and hare pies (probably ground beef nowadays) are distributed to the crowd. The operative word in this event is "scramble" and apparently there are a lot of flying pies.

After, everyone heads to the Buttercross where the bottles (actually small wooden kegs filled with liquor) are shown to the people. What follows is a pushing and shoving game on Hare Pie Bank, between the Leicestershire towns of Hallaton and Medbourne, between goals about a mile apart for possession of the bottles. If you don't want to be part of the scrum, stay well back because once they get going the momentum is unstoppable.

The Hallaton Hare Pie Scramble, similar to the 700-year-old tradition the  Haxey Hood and the Orkney Ba, could be a forerunner of Rugby.

10. Look Out For the Nutters

Easter 2014 events -click to enlarge
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Actually, they are the Britannia Coconutters of Bacup, to give them their formal name. They're a team of clog wearing Morris dancers who take their nickname from the coconut shells they wear on their knees, elbows and various other places. For more than 156 years they've gone clog dancing on Easter Saturday from one border of their Lancashire town to the other, accompanied by the Stacksteads Silver Band. It looked like the tradition might end in 2014 when the local constabulary refused to provide traffic control for the event. But the county council promised to fork out the £4,000 for private traffic control and the dancers were set to dance on. Beside their peculiar striped skirts, the dancers blacken their faces. But this is not a dubious reminder of the minstrel shows of the past. It's a much older tradition, intended to help them hide from evil spirits when the dancing is done.

 

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