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Where to go in the South-west for May Day weekend

I love the May day bank holiday. Ever since I read The Secret World of Polly Flint by Helen Cresswell when I was nine or something, I’ve had a magical feeling in my bones when May the first comes around. “A maypole in the month of May, is magical, or so they say!” And it’s a good time to go faerie spotting, though I’ve had no luck yet. I’ve also washed myself in the early morning dew (how very pagan of me) but whether or not it’s made me beautiful, well, I’m not really one to say!
Here are a few ideas for events happening this weekend in the south-west of England. Some are quite famous, but hopefully there’s some you haven’t heard of before and would like to visit…

The Dorset Knob throwing Festival. Yes, this seriously is a thing. With rules and everything – such as no over-arm throwing; one foot must remain on the ground and if the knob breaks on landing, the umpire decides which is the final resting place. It’s actually a really big event and happens along with the Frome Valley Food festival. It takes place on the 1st of May at Cattistock, a pretty village between Yeovil and Dorchester. Take a look at their website for more details. A knob, by the way, is a type of local biscuit, and you can have just as much fun throwing one as you can making immature jokes all day!

If you’re an early-bird, above the giant at Cerne Abbas in Dorset, the Wessex Morris Men welcome the sun at dawn. Then they lead a procession down the hill where there is more dancing at 7am in the village square.

Wessex Morris Men at Cerne Abbas

Wessex Morris Men at Cerne Abbas

(Photo taken by Malcolm Balmer at Dorset Camera.)

Padstow’s famous ‘Obby ‘Oss Day takes place this year on the 2nd May in this lovely Cornish fishing village. I’ve been to Padstow many times and with no particular event happening, it can get quite busy during the holidays, so goodness knows how crowded it must be for May Day! There are various versions of its history, depending on which Countryfile or tourist information you see, but take a look at the website for details about strange dressings up in black sail cloth and a fearsome mask, along with gyrating dancers and loud drummers. Learn the words to the song so you can join in the procession.

Another Hobby Horse custom appears in Minehead, Somerset where there is a town horse and a sailor’s horse parading about the streets of Minehead and up to Dunster Castle. They take a rest on Sundays, but can be seen about for four days. See here for this year’s itinerary and bring a few coins for the collecting bucket for local charities. Drinking in the local pubs is all part of the tradition! Again, the true history of the event is lost, though have a look here for an account of records found going back a long way.

Minehead May Day

Minehead May Day

The Downton Cuckoo Fair, just south of Salisbury, sounds like just my kind of thing, and although I can’t go this time, I will definitely try and visit next year. It’s a free event on Saturday 30th April, with Morris and Maypole dancing, family activities and two hundred and fifty craft stalls! Take a look at their website for directions and details.

Winterbourne Down in Gloucestershire makes a big deal of the May Day weekend and has events happening throughout; beginning with line-dancing and a barbecue on Saturday 30th; a treasure trail on Sunday and on Monday the carnival is the big event. This year’s theme is mystical creatures.

Winterbourne Down Border Morris Dancers

Winterbourne Down Border Morris Dancers

And if you just want to stay at home and curl up with a book; then I really recommend this one:

Add a comment to give a shout-out to your local May event!



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Debbie ish

Ah I found your page by googling ‘a maypole in the month of may is magical, or so they say’. I loved the book so much. I also think of May Day as pretty magical since reading that book all those years ago. 🙂



I also loved Moondial by Helen Cresswell and get a magical feeling whenever I see a sundial at a stately home!


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