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May 2011

Great Wrekin Barrel Race celebrates beer and brawn

Great Wrekin Barrel Race

ABOVE: Contestants haul a 50kg beer barrel up the Wrekin, Shopshire's most famous hill.

We normally don't post unedited press releases, but the following item by Pat Edgar for Ironbridge & Telford Tourism was too good to resist:


200 year old Wrekin Wakes marked with gruelling 50kg beer barrel

Challenge up The Wrekin hill: Sunday 12th June

Around this time two hundred years ago, barrels of beer would have been hauled up The Wrekin, Shropshire's landmark hill, to oil the rowdy Wakes celebrations at the top. On Sunday, 12th June, we pay tribute to those Georgian revellers with this year’s Great Wrekin Barrel Race – an annual sporting challenge that sees the Midlands’ strongest battle to get full, nine gallon beer barrels up the hill in the quickest possible time. It’s a much less drunken affair than the Wakes of old, and ale connoisseurs will be pleased to know the barrels are filled with water so as not to waste good beer!

The grueling path is about 1.5 miles long and rises some 1,000ft (300m). There are four classes; the most popular is the Classic team event where four people carry a full barrel competing against the current record of 21 minutes and 40 seconds. For those who fancy going it alone there is the ominously titled Lunatic Challenge, for a single person to carry a full barrel up The Wrekin - the record is 30 minutes and 38 seconds, set by Tom Portman from The Cock Hotel, Wellington, last year.

There is also a Women’s Challenge for a team of four women to carry an empty barrel to the top of the hill (record 18 minutes 26 seconds) and finally the Fancy Dress Challenge where any mix of sexes take part for fun with an empty barrel and wearing fancy dress. There are prizes and trophies for the various classes as well as certificates of participation for all with a record of their time from bottom to top.

The event starts at 11am from the old Rifle Range off Wrekin Course (just minutes from Junction 7 of the M54) with the finish line at Heaven Gate near the hill’s summit. Entry is £20 per team or individual and entrants are encouraged to collect sponsorship for the nominated local charity, which this year will be Arthurs Next Steps ( Spectators are welcome but need to bring their own refreshments. 

There are still a few spaces left for competitors, and further details are available at; other things to see and do and accommodation suggestions in the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site can be found on

Source: Pat Edgar, PR Matters

Museum im Stasi-Bunker, Leipzig

Museum im Stasi-Bunker MachernMalchern

ABOVE: A museum official shows off the airlock in the former State Security Service bunker near Leipzig, Germany.

The Museum im Stasi-Bunker, a.k.a. the Museum in the Stasi Bunker, offers an intriguing glimpse into life in the former German Democratic Republic.

The restored underground command post, which was designed to house 120 Stasi officers and two KGB liasons during an attack by NATO, occupies a wooded setting about 30 km or 19 miles from Leipzig, Saxony. During its heyday from 1972 to 1989, the site had a cover story: The GDR's powers-that-were claimed that it was a holiday retreat for Leipzig water and sewer workers.

For a two-page illustrated article about the bunker, which is open to the public once a month, see our Museum in the Stasi Bunker article in the Germany section of

Exmoor villagers hunt the Earl of Rone, May 27-30

Earl of Rone procession in Combe Martin, Exmoor

ABOVE: The Hunting of the Earl of Rone procession in Combe Martin. INSET: The Earl of Rone sits astride a donkey between shootings.

Earl of Rone on donkey

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 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

Source: Pat Edgar, PR Matters
Photos: copyright © Simon Stuart