NFU Mutual and The Telegraph newspaper present a celebration of rural culture and its influence on lifestyles in towns and villages across the UK.
A showcase for quaint and eccentric traditions, everyone loves a good village fete. In many places it has occupied the same weekend since time immemorial – and depends on the whole community to “do their bit”. It’s the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon, but what makes this British institution so special?
1. Cream teas
The owner of the prettiest house around the village green is duty-bound to offer their front lawn as the venue. Lace tablecloths, flowers in jam jars and a charming mismatch of vintage china set the scene for an abundance of towering scones, Victoria sponge and milky tea.
2. White elephant
Yes, it’s junk. But while there’s a chance of finding some Clarice Cliff among the cast-off pewter ornaments, 498-piece jigsaw puzzles and dusty brown pictures in dusty brown frames, people always love a good rummage.
We’re British! So come rain or shine, the show must go on. Too hot and the ice cream will run out; too cold and there will be a stampede for mulled wine. Don’t even think about what happens to wet crêpe paper. That’s why stalls need awnings.
4. Traditional games
Old-fashioned fun at 50p a go, from splat-the-rat to hoopla, pick-a-straw and spin-the-wheel. A coconut shy offers men the opportunity to scoff at ladies’ throwing ability, while cowpat bingo is more of a waiting game…
5. Cake stall
This is WI territory, where a classic lemon drizzle is worth a dozen Bake Off showstoppers. It’s always the first stall to sell out, despite the fact that no one can possibly need a cake after baking contributions for the past fortnight.
6. Beer tent
Offering shade or shelter (see “weather”) and liquid refreshment – ideally from a local craft brewery. Delivered a day or two in advance to let it settle, the barrel is guarded day and night “just in case”. Here the tug o’war teams compare bruises over pints in plastic glasses.
Green-fingered villagers have been taking cuttings for months - cottage garden plants such as aquilegia, hostas and foxgloves - and because it’s so much cheaper than the local nursery, those in the know head here as a priority. Grown close to home, so sure to suit the soil.
8. Show ring
A tight schedule of ferret racing, dog agility and the children’s fancy-dress parade, following the official opening by a local celebrity. Between times a brass band sweats its way through the Floral Dance while abstracted little girls twirl in their party dresses.
Inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee, a group of ladies is responsible for the bunting. Making this can become quite competitive, requiring hours of effort and the sacrifice of “tired” clothes. Without pinking shears the game is lost… um, isn’t that my favourite Liberty shirt?
A time-honoured way to recycle unwanted gifts and the last surviving use for books of cloakroom tickets. Numbers ending in five and zero win. Much of the fun derives from watching the stallholder trying to locate prizes while a queue forms.