From Death Dives to Bushel Basket Racing – the oddest sports in Britain

Is it our island isolation that gives UK residents such a penchant for peculiarity? This applies to our athletic endeavours as well as our car designs: where else would people think to play bike polo or take flight in a soap box?

Death Dive – flying soap

In the 1950s, the Death Dive at London's Alexandra Palace caused great excitement. As the picture (above) shows, the idea was to accelerate in a soap box down a steep ramp, gaining enough speed to take off… for a short while, at least. Presumably, the landing was less well thought out and could no doubt result in serious injury. But, unfortunate endings aside, it all looks like perfectly normal behaviour to us.

Bushel Basket Championship – baskets without end

Witness the splendid skills of the members of the Borough Market and South London Fruiterers Sports Association when it comes to the challenge of bushel-basket carrying. In the 1930s, the market traders established an annual championship, testing the participants’ ability to run with 10 baskets stacked on their heads – here pictured at Herne Hill Athletic Ground in September 1931. 

Bicycle Polo – who needs horses?

No thoroughbred polo ponies from Argentina required, thank you, an ordinary bike will do just fine. Firmly in control of his two-wheeled steed and shortened polo stick, Prince Philip clearly enjoyed the variation on a royal sport as captured in this photograph – taken at Windsor in 1967.

Cricket – jolly good sense

To the nations who indulge in this most excellent of sports, cricket makes jolly good sense. To everyone else, it’s a deeply baffling pastime. The official regulations are long and complicated, with a mysterious scoring system – not to mention the fact that a match can take several days and there isn’t always a winner at the end of it. Still, at least there’s plenty of tea and sandwiches.

Penny-Farthing Races – high-wheeling

In these days of racing superbikes, the thought of racing a penny-farthing strikes some as a little bizarre. But such activities do still take place – and don’t imagine some cosy rally organised as a fun day out. Penny-farthing riders take their sport very seriously and are meticulous in their planning. In addition, it’s quite dangerous: imagine falling off.

Photos: Getty Images