3 Wonderfully Weird Things About Derbyshire

Derbyshire, UK

As much as I love Derbyshire, I must admit that we do have some weird customs… Here are three of my favourite wonderfully weird (but equally as fantastic) things about Derbyshire.

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Hedge Face aka. The Bushy Elvis Impersonator of Milford

Do you recognise this bushy legend? He went viral on Twitter a few years ago, after BBC Radio Derby published an article about him on their website. I don’t think he has a name, so we just call him Hedge Face around here, because he’s a face made out of a hedge. (Clue’s in the name, and all that.)

Hedge Face is an homage to Elvis. He sits on a wall in his garden at the end of Shaw Lane, just off the A6 in Milford. You’ll spot him when you’re heading between Derby and Belper, north-bound. He makes a nice little landmark, and let's face it, he's enough to perk your day up a tiny bit, isn't he? Failing that, he'll at least make you double take.

You can read more about him in this BBC News article.

Bonsall Chicken Race

On the first Saturday of August every year an international sporting event takes place in a tiny Derbyshire village. Yes, I’m talking about the one and only Bonsall Chicken Race. (Bonsall is just outside Cromford and is two miles south-east of Matlock.)

Hens race a thirty-foot course in heats which culminate in a clucking tense grand final.

Bonsall Chicken Race takes place in a pub car park. The Barley Mow, to be precise. The fastest chicken completed the course in an eggcellent three seconds, apparently! Prizes are bags of grain and a trophy. If you’d like to compete, but have no fowl of your own, you can even ‘rent-a-chicken’ for a donation to charity. Food and drink is on offer too (but let’s hope it doesn’t consist of chicken and chips, eh?)

I did actually go to Bonsall Chicken Race about twenty years ago, and it was just as wonderfully weird as you’d expect. In 2023, it’s expected to be held on Saturday 5th August, but that is still to be confirmed.

You can find out more on the Barley Mow pub website.

Castleton Garland Day

Each year on the 29th May is the fantastic Castleton Garland Day. It is said to originate from the restoration of King Charles II all the way back in 1660! Some experts do dispute this. Still, it has been going on for quite some time.

At midday, villagers start decorating the Garland (a wooden framework in the shape of a beehive) with bunches of garden flowers. Once that’s finished, a small posy named ‘The Queen’ made of fine flowers that are tied around a short stick is inserted as a topknot to the top of the garland.

In the late afternoon, the Garland King and ‘The Lady’, his companion, mount their horses while dressed in Stuart costume. The garland is then placed on the King’s shoulders, until only his legs are visible.

Then, the dance starts at one of the village’s pubs. The riders and the Castleton Silver Band lead a procession around the area during the evening, stopping at various points, including all of the pubs… Local schoolgirls dress in white, and carry flowers, along with small ‘garland sticks’ twined with ribbons, and they dance a form of Morris dancing at each stopping place along the route.

When the circuit of the village has been completed, the King rides up to the gates of the churchyard, then ‘The Queen’ is removed from the top of the garland, where it is then placed on the Castleton war memorial. The King then rides to the foot of the tower of St. Edmund’s Church. From there, a long rope is hung down and tied to the garland, where it is lifted to the top of the tower and impaled on it. It remains there for several days until the flowers have wilted.

The day concludes with maypole dancing in the Market Place and then the residents of the village follow the band back through the village dancing. Honestly, I’m not making this up.

You can find out lots more information about Castleton Garland Day on the official website for the event.

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