Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grindon Hedgehog Rolling Festival

Each summer Grindon continues to celebrate the ancient tradition of Hedgehog Rolling. The history of this event is somewhat uncertain, depending as it does, on the memories of villagers who are now unfortunately long deceased. However, it seems that hedgehogs were widely kept as pets (for their pest control abilities) and some were specifically trained to take place in hedgehog races. Ultrasonic whistles (similar to those used with sheep-dogs) would signal to the hogs when they were to roll up (for downhill sections of the course) or unroll (for uphill sections). It is believed that Lewis Carroll got the idea for the Flamingo & Hedgehog Croquet game in Alice in Wonderland after visiting Grindon on Hedgehog Rolling day.

The hogs that are rolled nowadays have been selectively bred and reared to bear a striking resemblance to large fir cones and they are brushed around the village course by ‘rollers’ armed with traditional besoms.

The hedgehogs all have their pet names and each entrant is allowed to choose their own hog on the strict understanding it is returned to the Registration Tent after completion of the course. Although housed together in the Registration Tent the hogs are exceptionally well behaved and show almost no annoyance at being taken out in the blazing sun on a number of occasions.

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