I always try to look out for lesser known, interesting, or quirky attractions in any area I visit. It's different, and it avoids the crowds.
Ready, Get Set, SLOW!
Every year, for the last 25 years, the summer excitement in the east of England comes to a peak when the International Snail Racing Championships are held.
Snails, up to 200 of them, come from far and wide to the small village of Congham (pop. 227) to take part in this internationally renowned competition.
In 2012 the championship was postponed until 18 August 2012 because of a waterlogged field. And the winner was Racer!
In 2013 the date was 20 July and the winner this time was... Racer II (son of Racer?).
The hot weekend meant that no records were broken on 19 July 2014 but the winner was declared as Wells. If you don't believe me, and I suspect there are some doubters out there, you can see all the pictures on the official site.
In 2015 the winner was George, followed by Herbie 2 in 2016, and Larry in 2017.
The next race will be 21 July 2018. Why not start training now?
The Snail Racing Rules
The rules are simple:
- The snails must be land snails (aquatic snails might find the going tough).
- Giant snails are not allowed.
- They must start behind the inner circle.
- The winner is the first to reach the outer circle.
- The distance from the inner to the outer circle is 13 inches (33 centimetres).
- The snails may have names.
- Fancy dress is allowed.
- Any trainers are allowed to cheer on their snails.
Giant Snails Are Not Allowed
In fact, the rules actually state: "Giant foreign snails" are not allowed (my italics). I have never seen a giant snail in England, so I'm not sure whether a British giant snail would be permissible. Are small foreign snails are allowed to enter? Are they allowed into the country at all? Do they have to go through quarantine regulations? Would they even survive quarantine?
Snails in Fancy Dress
The person who starts the races is called the Snail Trainer. He too can wear fancy dress. The owners can also wear fancy dress. Indeed, anyone and everyone can have any costume that happens to appeal to them. Make it a merry occasion!
I'd guess that having a woolly suit might not be too much of an advantage to a snail but, who knows...?
What to Do if the Weather Is Bad...
Congham, like much of Norfolk, is a damp place. While this is ideally suited to the snails, sometimes it's just too much. In 2007 the whole competition was rained off.
In hot weather the course has to be kept watered to ensure ideal conditions for racing. Watering the course wasn't needed in the extra wet summer of 2012.
And If It's a Washout, Learn to Swim!
Congham in Norfolk, UK
The First Snail Race
The Rivals in France
Another small village, this one in the south of France, holds snail racing championships in August. They call it the "Championnat du Monde de Vitesse d'Escargot". The winner is set free, but the losers.... Well, who knows in France?
According to the local mayor, the championship is a very serious competition, regardless of appearances. Some people train their snails for several days.
Some say the French competition started over 40 years ago, making it the first of its kind. Some also say that's where the people of Congham got the idea.
A True Story
One day, many years ago, while we were on holiday in France, we took our sons to a local restaurant for lunch. My husband chose escargots cooked in garlic butter.
"What's escargot, Daddy," asked our eldest, aged about seven at the time.
"Snails," came the reply. "Escargot is the French word for snail".
A few moments of thought. A puzzled look.
"Don't you find them a bit crunchy?"
"No, no, you don't eat the shells."
A few more moments of thought. A look of horror came across our son's face.
"Oh no! You don't eat the slimy bit, do you?!!!!"
My husband has never eaten another snail. Never.
2014 - The Champion
In fact if you do watch the video above, you will find that indeed, foreign snails are allowed. It is truly an international event.
Other Things to Do in the Area
I know, of course, that your prime reason for visiting Norfolk will be for the snail racing, but while you are in the area, consider also seeing the Norfolk Broads (I imagine you could find many potential racing competitors there) or maybe pay a visit to the Queen at Sandringham House which is open to the public. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also have a place in Norfolk, Amner Hall, but this is most definitely not open to the public.
There are several other stately homes, two cathedrals in Norwich, medieval wool churches, round tower churches, castles and much much more.
So, whatever the weather, your visit to Norfolk need not be a single destination visit.
Do let me know if you've raced by.
Kay on November 27, 2012:
Just the title of this page made me laugh and I loved your personal story. Blessed and thank you for the smiles :)
lesliesinclair on November 23, 2012:
i think you're the leader of the pack, introducing us to this snail competition.
VickiLeesBookshelf on August 20, 2012:
love the story about your husband & son and escargo.. I think I have to go with your son on this one. :-)
anonymous on August 18, 2012:
Now that I know this sport(??) exists I will have to rank it right up there with 'frisbee painting', 'cow tipping' and 'lily-pad hopping'.
Melissa Miotke from Arizona on July 24, 2012:
This seems like it would be a very slow race:)
MizzMary on July 19, 2012:
Such odd and interesting information. It would be fun to attend a snail race. I'm glad you wrote this lens, it made me smile.
ScarlettScarf on July 19, 2012:
That is really interesting! I never heard about the snail race! And nice story with your son. :)
flycatcherrr on July 18, 2012:
What fun! I love snails, used to keep them as pets in a damp terrarium when I was a kid - named them all after American politicians: Nixon was the slimiest who kept trying to escape ;) - but I've never raced a snail. Yet.
anonymous on July 15, 2012:
Well, I for one am amazed that snails can read the rules for the race...I would guess they are considered to be slow readers, what fun! They are a slimy bunch for sure. My sister used to farm snails over the winter to feed her Red Bellied Snake, the snake always won that race! Can you imagine how the snails would step it up, knowing they were about to become lunch!
LotusLandry from Southern California on July 15, 2012:
math-gym has a story problem about colliding snails!
Stephen J Parkin from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada on July 15, 2012:
It seems like the trainers need the type of patience required to watch paint dry or grass grow!
Camile from Doha Qatar on July 15, 2012:
haha.. this is so much fun! I'd love to see whose the winner!
Fay Favored from USA on July 14, 2012:
Would have loved to see a video on this. What fun.
Im Horse Crazy on July 13, 2012:
Love the cool great stuff here & never knew about snail racing!
ryan2526 on July 13, 2012:
I love this! I can't imagine snails in fancy dress though! It must take some serious skill and patience to get them into lycra etc.
anonymous on July 13, 2012:
Well written and interesting. Snails racing in competition? As a kid, me and my friends would sometimes put them to race. Same idea, draw a circle and see who made it out first. Not official of course.
debbie-dapson-7 on July 12, 2012:
I grew up in Southern California and we had snails all over the place, they would leave gossamer trails all over the sidewalks and stones. As a child I loved to play with them, let them slither all over my hands. I suspect that it wouldn't be as much fun now, though. Can't say as I've ever tried to race them, however--too bad, that would have been fun.
jlshernandez on July 12, 2012:
The race must take a while at snail pace. :)
latestcamera on July 12, 2012:
Never heard never saw of this before quite hilarious idea of watching snails running on the track.I couldn't resist my laughter awesome have watched some videos on it it was just ;-)
LouJon on July 11, 2012:
Haha, I like the idea that fancy dress is allowed. Where do you go to buy little snail costumes :)
Lori Green from Las Vegas on July 10, 2012:
LOL Now this is original.
Kae Yo on July 10, 2012:
That is truly entertaining. I couldn't keep from smiling while I read. I didn't know there was such a thing. I loved the story about your son and husband. :) Congratulations on making the front page!
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on July 09, 2012:
This sounds like a fun race. I might just train a snail.
georgeac lm on July 09, 2012:
"Some people train their snails for several days." ha ha ha That was too funny
Jemecan on July 08, 2012:
Sometimes the horses I bet on think they are snails, by the way they run.
kburns421 lm on July 08, 2012:
This is too funny! I love snails though, so I think it's pretty cool. When I was younger, I once gathered snails from outside and created a playground in a box with things for them to climb on. They loved it so much that I couldn't get them out when I was done with them!
PaigSr from State of Confusion on July 08, 2012:
Go Gary! Go Gary!
SteveKaye on July 08, 2012:
It's taking me hours to type this since I'm going at about two letters per minute, without breaks, which when included add considerably to the time. Nevertheless, I'm forging on, one letter at a time. Tell the snails to wait for me. I'll be home later this evening.
Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on July 08, 2012:
This is so cute! I'd love to watch a snail race. That's about my speed.