THE annual mud, sweat and tears festival of the Haxey Hood will bring the Isle of Axholme to a standstill once more this weekend.
The Hood, now believed to be in its 653rd year, will be as fiercely contested as ever with last year’s victors the Duke William hoping to retain their grip on the prized leather cylinder when battle commences on Saturday afternoon.
The Hood, traditionally held on Epiphany on January 6, will this year be held a day earlier - a standard tradition when the date falls on a Sunday with drinkers from four local watering holes endeavouring to guide the trophy to their favoured pub.
No one pub has dominated the annual battle in recent years with the Duke William, Carpenters Arms and Kings Arms all triumphing in the last three years.
The game’s other participating pub, The Loco, has only chalked up one triumph since the turn of the new millennium while the Kings Arms has racked up six victories, including a hat-trick of wins between 2008-10.
The game’s traditions date from the 14th century when Lady de Mowbray, wife of an Isle landowner, John De Mowbray, was out riding towards Westwoodside on the hill that separates it from Haxey.
As she went over the hill her silk riding hood was blown away by the wind.
Thirteen farm workers in the field rushed to help and chased the hood all over the field.
It was finally caught by one of the farm workers, but being too shy to hand it back to the lady, he gave it to one of the others to hand back to her.
She thanked the farm worker who had returned the hood and said that he had acted like a Lord, whereas the worker who had actually caught the hood was a Fool.
So amused was she by this act of chivalry and the resulting chase, that she donated 13 acres of land on condition that the chase for the hood would be re-enacted each year.
This re-enactment over the centuries has become known as The Haxey Hood with scores of participants lining up each year to take part in the annual mudbath - which can often turn into a bruising encounter for the hundreds joining in the fun.
The tour of pubs begins at 12.30pm, the smoking of the fool at 2.30pm with the Hood getting underway shortly afterwards.