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VIDEOS: Hallaton bottle kicking: Mud, guts and glory in annual battle


Bottle kicking madness gripped a quiet corner of Leicestershire once again yesterday as rival villages fought for honour and glory over a keg of ale.

Hundreds of people braved the cold to enjoy the rough but exhilarating annual Easter Monday spectacle of the Hallaton bottle kicking.

Two teams of villagers, from Hallaton and neighbouring Medbourne, wrestled each other in the mud for control of the "bottle".

The only rules were no gouging, strangling or weapons.

Rival camps joined spectators in Hallaton's Fox Inn for some pre-match refreshments before the centuries-old contest.

Bottle kicking veteran Gary Dann, 58, of Kibworth, said: "I've not taken part since my 20s, but come every year. It's a big social event which draws people in from as far as Australia."

First-timer Mandy Rooke, 49, of Market Harborough, said: "I'm here for the experience, really. My friends have been telling me all about it so I wanted to come along and see what I was missing."

The contest saw the Arnold family, from Oadby, divided, with Roy, 47, pitted against son Peter, 19.

Roy, who lined up with Hallaton, said: "I've got connections with Hallaton because my mother-in-law is cared for at the Manor Care Home, while Peter has mates in Medbourne.

"Injuries are quite common but rarely anything serious. If we bump into each other then we go for it just like everyone else. It's a tough game."

Peter said: "We've done it for six years now. Last year, when we won for the first time in five years, I got squished and sprained my knee."

Mum Ruth said: "I don't get nervous any more. They both play rugby and know the risks."

Mark Atkins, 50, who is visiting family in Leicestershire from his home in California, looked on in bemusement as the first bottle was tossed in the air.

"I don't know what to make of it, really," he said. "It just looks like one big scrum."

Bottle kicking is believed to hark back to England's pagan past, when hares were sacrificed to the goddess Eostre.

The event started with a parade through Medbourne and Hallaton.

Villagers carried a large hare pie and the three bottles – two kegs filled with beer and a third, the dummy, of solid wood painted red and white.

Each bottle is tossed in the air three times, signaling the start of the competition.

Parish priest, Reverend Richard Curtis, who led a morning service in St Michael's and All Angels to begin the festivities, said: "It's a traditional celebration to mark the end of Lent and Easter. It's great to see the tradition thriving."

• Hallaton claimed victory this year with a 2-1 win. • Click to see more pictures from Easter Monday's Hallaton bottle kicking.

VIDEOS: Hallaton bottle kicking: Mud,  guts and glory  in annual  battle

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