56. The Randwick Wap
A series of springtime events in the village of Randwick, near Stroud, culminates in the Randwick Wap, a revived ancient festival that includes a costumed procession, the 'Mayor' getting dunked in the village pond, and a ceremonial cheese-rolling.
The traditional event dates back to the Middle Ages and was revived by Randwick's late vicar, Rev Nial Morrison, in 1972 and has steadily grown to become one of the region's leading annual events, attracting visitors from as far away as Canada, the USA and Australia.
The Wap it is now held each year on the Saturday following the first Sunday in May. Proceedings begin with the "Mayor making" at the village war memorial at 1pm, presided over by the town crier. The Mayor-elect is presented with a chain of office by his (or her) predecessor and the Wap Queen is crowned, and they are both anointed with water.
The Wap Mayor and Queen are then carried through the village accompanied by various officials including a Mop-Man, who clears the way and wets the crowd with water, before the Mayor is dipped in the pond.
Real cheeses, which will have been blessed in a special outdoor service at St John the Baptist Church in Randwick and rolled around the church the previous Sunday, are rolled by the Queen and Mayor down the bank and then divided and eaten.
The procession then makes its way to the fair field by Randwick Village Hall where there are presentations and entertainments as well as stalls selling a variety of items, including the unique Wiput cake on sale at the Wap tent.
Various theories exist on how the Wap began, although most villagers believe it was a celebration that followed the completion of building Randwick's parish church. The Wap is also believed to combine the traditional rural May celebrations of hoping for fertility and bountiful crops.
Its name is associated with the historic "Wapenshaw" (Old English for "weapon-show") which was a rallying of local men with whatever weapons they could muster, such as pitch forks, to prove their readiness to defend the parish.
Although the traditional dunking of the Mayor may sound rather barbaric, Randwick Wap vice-president Cal Williams said it is nowadays generally more civilised.
"The Mayor and Queen's chairs are placed side by side in the pool and the queen anoints the mayor with spring water from the same silver bowl and ladle used for the Mayor-making," said Cal.
"However, from time to time it can be a little more like the traditional dunking. For instance, when I was elected Wap Mayor in 2005 several 'helpers' joined in enthusiastically, repeatedly filling builders' buckets from the pool to ensure I had a proper soaking!"
• Another ducking of a Mock Mayor that is rather different to that seen at the Randwick Wap takes place each year in early August in the market town of Woodstock, in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds.
The Old Woodstock Mock Mayor celebrations started in 1786 and were revived in 1984. The event climaxes with the traditional ducking of the Mock-Mayor in the River Glyme and the procession to the bar of the Black Prince pub.
The ducking signifies the Mayor and the Corporation turning their backs on and declaring their independence from the “other” Woodstock by crossing the boundary line.