Let battle commence! All set for Bottle Kicking

For many, Easter time will evoke thoughts of chocolate eggs, religious meaning and family get-togethers.

But in Harborough district, it means only one thing – mauling, beer and mud-soaked scrimmaging.

It is, of course, Hallaton Bottle Kicking time, the ancient tradition where teams from Hallaton and Medbourne do battle every Easter Monday with village pride at stake for the next 12 months.

The 1,000-year-old tradition dates back to Pagan times and sees the teams scramble across fields between the two villages in an effort to get their ‘bottle’ – a small beer barrel – across a brook and into their village. It is a best-of-three affair and can last for several hours as the pack of bodies trudges slowly but powerfully across the farmers’ fields.

Medbourne arguably has the tougher task as it has to traverse three fields.

After the battle, which starts at 3pm, people are invited to come and see the conquering heroes celebrating at the Butter Cross in Hallaton.

There are also many other customs and practices which surround the battle itself.

These include the cutting up and distribution of the Hare Pie at the church gates and the bottle kicking parade from the Fox Inn pub to the Hare Pie bank.

Phil Allan, from the bottle kicking organising committee, said they are expecting between 7,000 and 10,000 to attend on the day and added: “It’s a very joyous day and a unique event.

“It’s one of those quirky English customs that’s been running for ever.

“It’s a fantastic day out for everybody and the weather forecast is looking nice.”

The last two contests have been split by both villages so both teams are feeling confident, added Mr Allan.

Proceeds will be going to local charities.