Ten very British hobbies


Our obsession with queuing may be a source of fascination for the rest of the world, here are some other typically British things we get up to.

1. Knitting

Boosted by celebrity fans such as Kate Middleton and Julia Roberts, knitting is booming in Britain – particularly among younger women. The UK Hand Knitting Association estimates around 7 million women in the UK have an interest in knitting or sewing. It’s a stitch up!

2. Bird watching

Also known as “birders” or “twitchers”, birdwatching fans celebrate beautiful British wildlife – and help preserve it. 40,000 volunteers contributed to the latest British Bird Atlas. And when a rare bird such as the bearded vulture or the Dalmatian pelican appears on our shores, it can make national headlines.

3. Rambling

Countryside walking topped a 2012 poll of Britain’s best-loved pastimes –providing al fresco pleasure with health benefits for hundreds of thousands of people. Rambling can also be political – in 1931, a mass trespass by walkers onto aristocrat-owned Peak District land proved a turning point in opening up the British countryside to walkers.

4. Train-spotting

“Anoraks” are part of trainspotting only in the sense of being a sensible garment choice to stand for ages on cold or wet station platforms. Train-spotters aim to “spot” certain types of rolling stock by jotting down identifying numbers, a task demanding concentration, patience and fortitude – thoroughly British qualities.

5. Flower arranging

Whether combining cultivated and wild flowers with foliage for beautiful contrasts or using foam and wire to create complex arrangements, flower arranging is skilful and satisfying.

6. Pigeon fancying

Racing pigeons to see whose birds return home first over a specified distance requires skilful training and love for your birds. Apparently Mike Tyson is a fan, and do you want to tell him it isn’t serious?

7. Brass rubbing

Brass rubbers usually work on commemorative floor plaques in historic churches, some dating back to the 13th century. It teaches history, requires artistry and has its own fun lexicon – from latten to butcher's paper.

8. Jam making

Once deemed the preserve of elderly ladies at the Women's Institute, jam making has become hugely popular – one British company sells two million jam jars a year to enthusiasts. Celebrities such as supermodel Kate Moss do it, while style and food magazines highlight “couture jams” using unusual ingredients – bacon jam, anyone?

9. Bell-ringing

Otherwise known as campanology, bell-ringing has been a British pastime for 400 years. Today, there are around 40,000 ringers in the UK, organised by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers. In past times bells marked important events or warned of danger but now it’s a form of heavy metal that is fun, keeps you fit and can even be competitive. Ding dong!

10. Collecting

Millions of happy folk enjoy collecting, well, just about anything. One British woman has cleaned up with a collection of more than 5,000 different soap bars, while a male Dr Who fan has amassed almost 600 Daleks. Other weird collections range from celebrity hair clippings to troll dolls. Makes stamps seem a bit dull.

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