Each year, the town of Ashbourne is filled with people who all want to share the fun of playing the annual Royal Shrovetide football. The whole town bustles in high spirits as they embrace and enjoy the special event. For those who are not familiar with it, the Royal Shrovetide Football or England’s Shrove football is held in Ashbourne, Derbyshire every Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.
During the event, around 400 people attend the preliminary speeches. It starts with the whole crowd singing “Auld Lang Syne” and the National Anthem while the ball is slowly moved to its starting place.
This activity is not your regular game that requires special skills, but rather focuses more on the spirit of camaraderie. It doesn’t only need a handful of people to play the game for eight straight hours — it needs the whole town. Everyone in the community gets to play their part in transporting the ball into the northern or southern side of the town center.
There are two competing groups: the Up’ards the Down’ards. There is a river that splits the town in two called Henmore Brook. Players in each team depending on which side of town they were born in.
A ball is thrown to the crowd from a brick-raised structure called the “plinth” that’s specially created at the center part of the town for the game. Then the players start pushing, moving the ball closer to their goals.
They can do anything they want to move the ball except using vehicles. They can kick it and throw it without the intention to harm other people.
If a score is made before 5 pm, a new ball is thrown. The game for the day ends at the first goal after 5 pm or at 10 pm if neither team gets any scores. The game will be continued at 2 pm the next day.
Most people and town visitors are happy enough to follow the ball all around town while the real players are heated up fighting and pushing for it at the center. The ball takes the crowd to the streets, the fields, or even to the muddy places and rivers.
Before, many towns in England played the Royal Shrove Football as part of their culture. Nowadays, Ashbourne is the only one of the remaining few towns that still pay tribute to the game.
This is truly one of the most thrilling events in England. Try joining or witnessing England’s Shrove Football as the community celebrates its rich culture and spirit of camaraderie.
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