Once a year towards the end of summer, the streets of the idyllic, thatched village of Crantock take a slight departure from their regular peaceful setting and are taken over by an evening of this:
Having grown up in the West Country, I’m used to the odd welly wang, cheese-roll and other such feats of agricultural athleticism. I can’t say however, that I’ve ever pushed a 5ft round bale of hay around a village course. In the pouring rain.
The Crantock bale push has been going since the early 2000’s and was started up as a fundraising attempt to raise money for a new village hall. Move forward to 2016 and the much loved annual event has now raised over £50,000 for charities close to the village’s heart.
All for a good cause. That’s what I keep reminding myself when I struggle to get dressed and raise my aching arms above my head.
The conversation about entering a team was broached by my friend Sammy at work a couple of weeks ago. Being one of these agricultural athlete types (record breaking Welly Wanger, Year 8, Hugh Sexey’s Middle School) I of course blindly signed up without first doing any research on the weight of these bales and/or training. To describe the extent of my fitness regime would be best summarised by a meme the Kiwi sent me this week accompanied by the following comment – ‘This is you’.
Don’t get me wrong, I love to keep fit by walking, kayaking, open water swimming (and one day I hope to return from injury to my beloved running) but the inside of a gym is as foreign to me as refusing the dessert/drinks menu. Do I lift? Yes. A large glass of G & T.
Nevertheless, Sammy, our two other team members and myself arrived at the village on Friday night armed with some sense of faux optimism. Maddeningly competitive, we stepped up to the start line with our eyes on the prize. That was until we gave it our first push. From then on our eyes were very much on just completing the course and not throwing up.
The first clue should have been when the team before us, a bunch of hardy hockey girl types, with arm muscles aplenty, walked past us sweating, swearing and wishing our puny team good luck. The second clue was the fact that it had been raining, heavily, for much of the late afternoon. The bale that had been rolled through puddles by every other team, now sat squatly in front of us – the last team – carrying the extra weight of all the water it held.
Our initial, well intended efforts got us as far as the top of the hill. The rest of the route comprised of a quick loop around the centre of the village and back down the hill to the finish line. Our techniques varied wildly, from throwing ourselves at it to steering it with our bum. Each point of contact with the bale resulted in the same, bucket like, splash of water release over us so by the end of the race, there was not one square inch of us that wasn’t covered in water, grit and hay. Believe me. From bra to trousers, my entire outfit now rotates in the washing machine trying to shed it’s Worzel Gummidge-like image. As with everything building up to this point, I had thought through nothing including my bale pushing attire. Wool and denim was a bad choice.
Well we finished. Without even so much as a glance at the results board, we headed off for a post event refuelling at the bar.
As we were the last of the women’s entries, next up were the men. This was marked by the sudden arrival at the start line of teams of those cross-fit types who, in their matching team shirts and elasticated sports gear, looked like they were here on some serious bale business.
Sammy’s boyfriend was entered on a team so we and the other bale wags were able to follow them on their push, lending our vocal support. The men’s course is much longer than the women’s and does a whole circuit of the centre of the village before ending on a brutal uphill stretch to the finish line.
Most teams started eager, many finished broken, but all ended in the pub. Both the Old Albion and The Cornishman pubs put on some great bands and even better booze and despite the pain, the weather and our faces receiving an intensive exfoliation from a hay bale, we all vowed that our team would return once more.
*Disclaimer: I apologise for the quality of the images included in this post. I can only hope that they give a good sense of the atmosphere and ask that if you think you can do any better armed with an iPhone and de-armed from pushing a soggy bale of hay (and the post-race rehydration effort) then keep quiet because your kind of heroism is not needed here.
The Crantock Bale Push takes place annually in Crantock village on the north coast of Cornwall within close proximity to Newquay. Dates, entry fees and all information on the Crantock Bale Push can be found on their website.