Friday, July 04, 2014

Dorset Knob Throwing and Nettle Eating

Two peculiar customs we heard of during or shortly after our recent stay in Dorset. Neither are exactly ancient in origin . . .

The Bottle Inn in Marshwood is where they hold the Nettle Eating Championships in early June. This year we missed it by a couple of weeks! Just as well, we might have been tempted to take part - though I think not.

The contest started with a pub argument between two farmers in the late 1980s.
"My stinging nettles are longer than yours."
"Oh no they're not"
"Oh yes they are."
"I'll eat yours if they're longer than mine."
"Right you are. We'll measure them."

And the rest is history.  The contest lasts for an hour, and competitors are presented with 2-foot long stalks of stining nettles.  They have to pluck the leaves from the stalks and eat them. No one is allowed to leave the contest. No bathroom breaks or they're disqualified. After an hour the bare stalks are counted and the winner is the one with the greatest length of stalk. 

It's all done with a charity beer festival, along with plenty of live music.

The other tradition started even more recently, in 2008. The village of Cattistock, between Dorchester and Yeovil, needed to raise money for local sporting facilities, and came up with the idea.

A Dorset knob is a spherical biscuit, actually a small roll of bread dough baked three times, rather dry and crunchy, something like a rusk or French biscotte.  It shape lends itself to throwing.  The biscuit itself was first produced in about 1880, by accident, by the Moores family, whose bakery business began at Stoke Mill Bakehouse (now a lovely holiday cottage near Bridport).  The bakery business is still run from a shop in Morcombelake. 

Last May the contest and an associated food festival attracted around 5 000 people.

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