April in Particular
EASTER can fall on any day between 22nd March and 25th April. Look here for EASTER CUSTOMS AND EVENTS
All Fools Day April 1st
The origin of this day is obscure. In most areas the practical jokes must stop at noon or they rebound on the joker, but in the West Midlands, the afternoon is 'trip-up time' and from North Yorkshire to the borders children also repeat their pranks on May Day morning.
Swallows arrive, first sighted at Portland Bill Observatory, Dorset. Their arrival is noted on the observatory's web-site.
From March to June, Wild Fruit Trees are in flower
Forest of Dean Sheep Day at Dean Heritage Centre, near Blakeney, Gloucs. The Forest of Dean has a long tradition of 'sheep badgering', ie. free roaming sheep, grazing in open woodland and on road sides. This is a centuries-old privilege granted by the crown, and is normally a small family concern. However during the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak, the "sheep badgers" were badly affected, all free roaming sheep being destroyed. Gradually sheep are returning, and Dean Heritage Centre are holding a Sheep Day on 4 April 2004, from 10am - 5pm, to promote the products of sheep farming and its associated traditions. This includes "Sheep Fair" ale produced especially by the Freeminer Brewery, sheep cheese, wool fat soap products, wool-based arts and demonstrations of weavery and felt making.
This new event is partly a revival of a medieval "Hogs and Horned Beasts" fair that was a traditional animal celebration/sale in Blakeney, held in the same week. For more information e-mail deanmuse [at] btinternet. com or look at the Dean Heritage Museum web-site.
Hocktide Celebrations, Hungerford, Berkshire (second Tuesday after Easter) elected "Tuttimen" carrying long staves decorated with spring flowers and topped with an orange visit houses exacting a penny from the men and a kiss from the women and give an orange in exchange. It is a celebration of the granting of fishing rights to the town by John of Gaunt in the 14th century. Hocktide and the regional variation, Lifting, were once practised countrywide. Hungerford is now thought to be the only Hocktide celebration in the country.
Dancing England Rapper Tournament (DERT), Kelham Island, Sheffield, S. Yorkshire - a traditional dance in Northumberland and County Durham involving flexible swords. The rapper dance was originally performed by miners in the pit villages of Tyneside in the 19th century, but developed from the older rigid sword dances of Yorkshire. It was once part of a longer performance similar to a mummers play. The rapper dances may have come from the spirit of solidarity within mining communities and the competitive feelings between mining villages. Performancces and tours were also a way of making money, particularly in the years between the wars. For more information, take a look at the rapper web-site.
Damson Day, amidst the damsons of the Lyth Valley - Usually held around easter, this event was started by the Westmorland Damson Association in 1998 to prevent the loss of the damson trees in the Lyth valley and to set up a co-operative to market damson products. It is a celebration of damsons with damson products such as bread, chocolates, wine, gin, beer, syrup, ice cream, bottled damsons and jam. There will be craft sales and guided walks of the Lyth Valley. Contact Mrs Helen Cartmell, organiser, on +44(0)1539 568428, or by e-mail: lowerludderburn [at] btinternet. com. Read more about Damson orchards in Westmorland.
Trent Aegir - River Trent, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire & Severn Bore, River Severn, Gloucestershire and Somerset - these tidal bores occur throughout the year. Look at the Environment Agency web-site for annual predictions, best times and places for viewing.
Suffolk Punch Parade - horses paraded in Woodbridge, Suffolk. Contact Marion Wells on +44(0)7830 158780 for more information. Ploughing with Heavy Horses takes place in October.
Riding the Bounds, Morpeth - usually third week in April on a Thursday. Riding of the Bounds followed by a horse race on the Common. Has not been held in recent years due to lack of funds, but it is hoped that it will be revived subsequently. Contact Clive Temple on +44(0)1670 513144). More in Morpeth in Late April with the Northumbrian Gathering.
Earth Day on 22nd April is celebrated world wide as the anniversary of the modern environmental movement, begun in the USA in 1970 when 20 million Americans demonstrated for a healthy, sustainable environment. In 1990 the Earth Day Campaign became global reaching 141 countries. See the Earth Day web-site for local events.
In mid to late April the cuckoo arrives, and one of the best places to see their first landfall is the Scilly Isles. Traditionally, the bird is expected in Sussex on 14th, Cheshire on 15th, Worcestershire on the 20th and Yorkshire on 21st. Traditional too is the report of the first cuckoo on the letters pages of the Times newspaper - announcing the arrival of spring. April 14th is traditionally First Cuckoo Day. A tale of Heathfield Fair in East Sussex depicts the Old Woman releasing the Cuckoo from her basket, whereupon he "flies up England carrying warmer days with him". On 15th in Hampshire "the cuckoo goes to Beaulieu Fair to buy him a great coat", according to the English Dialect Dictionary.
Several places have events celebrating the arrival of 'the merry cuckoo, messenger of spring'. There is a Cuckoo Feast (sometimes called a Crowder Feast) at Towednack, nr St Ives, Cornwall on the Sunday nearest 28th April - a parishioner is said to have put a log on his fire out of which a cuckoo flew. He kept the bird and from then on he held a cuckoo feast, a tradition that survives.
Around the 27th, Marsden Cuckoo Day celebrates the return of the Cuckoo - herald of spring - the Cuckoo legend says that the people of Marsden, in Yorkshire, knew that as the cuckoo arrived, so did the spring and summer. They built a wall around it to prolong its stay but it was too low and the cuckoo flew away - as the legend goes "it were nobbut just wun course too low!". Contact R. Gilbert on +44(0)1484 843879. A similar legend hails from Gotham, Nottinghamshire and Wareham in Dorset. Dorset has eight locations where Cuckoo Pound or Pen has been used as a place, monument or field name - at Corfe Castle, Langton Matravers, Arne, East Lulworth, Tyneham, Bere Regis, Witchampton and Bradford Peverell. See Harte, 1986.
Other Cuckoo Fairs and feasts happen around the country, including the Wareham Spring Fair in Dorset, which used to be held on April 6th.
"This is the weather the cuckoo likes - and so do I" (Thomas Hardy) - Read more about the Cuckoo.
St George's Day 23rd April
The Patron Saint of England and other countries and cities. He was probably a middle-eastern soldier in life, but is now better remembered for his legendary dragon-slaying, and features as a character in many Mummers Plays.
George is patron saint of Canada, England, Ferrera (Italy), Genoa (Italy), Georgia, Germany, Greece, Istanbul, Lithuania, Moscow, Palestine, Portugal and Venice as wellas numerous professions.
St George's Court, Lichfield, Staffordshire hosts a light-hearted re-enactment of the ancient manorial court held in 1548 when manorial rights of Lichfield were transferred by charter to the Mayor, Councillors and citizens (or as was, the Bailiffs, Burgesses and commonality). Contact the City Council on +44(0)1543 250011. See another even in Lichfield in February.
Mass Trespass anniversary, Kinder Scout, Peak District National Park, 24th April. Although Kinder Scout is now the centrepiece of the National Trust's High Peak Estate, in 1942 access was allowed on only one right of way and access to the summit was denied. On April 24 1932 The British Workers' Sport Federation climbed to the forbidden summit having scuffled with gamekeepers. On their descent five they were arrested and sent to prison for up to six months for riotous assembly and incitement to violence. Their harsh treatment lead to further support and calls for National Parks and access to the moors. Nine years later the Peak District National Park, the first in Britain, was created. In 2002 a 70th anniversary walk was held, with ramblers being joined by National Trust Wardens and National Park Rangers on the 10 mile walk. Contact +44(0)1433 670368.
Northumbrian Gathering, Morpeth - started in 1966 as a modest concert of Northumbrian music, this is now a festival of concert, singarounds, barn dances, storytelling, theatre, street performances, pageants, competitions for crafts, performance and writing. Also events of local interest. Contact the local TIC, +44(0)1670 511323, or look at the Gathering's web-site.
Wray Scarecrows - in the lead up to Wray Fair (May 6th) in Lancashire, villagers put about 100 scarecrows outside their houses and on their roofs. This new custom started in 1994. Also local crafts on display and for sale. Contact Lancaster TIC, +44(0)1524 32878 or look at the Wray web-site.
Snake's Head Fritillary at Ducklington, Oxon - a day is chosen between late April and the end of May when the flowers are likely to be at their best (April 13th in 2003). Contact +44(0)1993 772175. Read more.
Dartmoor Festival, Dartmoor Inn, Lydford, Devon. From the end of April to the end of May, the Dartmoor Inn at Lydford hosts stories, live music, art, photographs, traditions, food and customs of Dartmoor. Over the month events will include a paper theatre performance of the Hound of the Baskervilles, music from the Dartmoor Pixie Band, guided moorland walks, a photographic exhibition, a blessing of the fields and local folk tale readings. For full information contact the Dartmoor Inn +44(0)1822 820221, e-mail karen [at] dartmoorinn. co. uk.