Every New Year’s Day, the village of Colwinston plays the game of Collyball, a sport where swedes are rolled down the hill. The furthest wins. The scant information to be found online might mislead you into thinking it was a centuries-old tradition, but it was in fact made up in recent years for something to do, Alun Austin tells me. Swedes are used in place of the more name-appropriate cauliflowers.
Alun has a booming baritone voice and seems to be the guiding hand of the village. In the morning at the annual football match he distributes sherry. He leads the villagers from the field to the Sycamore Tree pub for lunch, he gathers them for the game of Collyball and then organises the ‘decorate the swede’ competition.
I’m not sure that I’ve visited a closer-knit community than Colwinston. The pub is crowded and laughing for the whole day. They seem to share a genuinely funny and offbeat sense of humour. The silly events raise money for charity and I am shown certificates and plaques. Colwinston has arranged it’s own cinema night in the village hall and has a philosophical society that meets regularly in the Sycamore.
During the game of Collyball one man grabs my arm and stares at me intently and says ‘We are very, very, very thankful!’ before bursting into laughter.
A new housing development is being built on what locals believe to be flood plain and they fight the development fiercely.
We leave before the Swede decorating competition and I record a colourful set of chimes in a playground next to a friendship bench.
Colwinston is the happiest of the blessed villages.