ABOVE: The Hunting of the Earl of Rone procession in Combe Martin. INSET: The Earl of Rone sits astride a donkey between shootings.
Exmoor is home to a bizarre centuries-old event, the pagan hobby-horse festival known as the Hunting of the Earl of Rone. The festival takes place in Combe Martin during England's spring Bank Holiday weekend of May 27-30.
Over a four-day period, villagers in Combe Martin dress up as grenadiers, a hobby horse, and a fool. Along with other residents, they hunt for the masked "Earl of Rone." They find the Earl on Monday evening after a chase through the woods.
A procession then takes place at 6 p.m., with the Earl mounted backwards on a donkey and paraded through the village to the sea. Along the way, he's shot multiple times by the grenadiers.
Each time the Earl falls from the donkey, he's revived by the the hobby horse and fool, re-mounted on the donkey, and carried onwards to his fate. At the final shooting on the beach, the Earl of Rone is thrown into the sea.
For details about the Hunting of the Earl of Rone, visit www.earl-of-rhone.org.uk or call the Combe Martin Tourist Information Centre at 01271 883319.
You'll find more information about Combe Martin and the surrounding area in the new Visitor Guide to Exmoor and West Somerset 2011. To get a free copy, visit www.exmoor.com.
Source: Pat Edgar, PR Matters
Photos: copyright © Simon Stuart