Haxey Hood #DoncasterisGreat

Doncaster’s Oldest, Craziest Tradition

The story goes that some time during the 14th century, Lady de Mowbray of Haxey was riding in the field that separates Haxey from neighbouring village, Westwoodside. A particularly strong gust of wind blew Lady de Mowbray’s riding hood from her head drawing the attention of thirteen farm workers. The farm workers, being a subservient lot, started to fight over the honour of returning the hood to the Lady. Unfortunately for him, the first worker who managed to grab the hood had an attack of nerves and daren’t approach the good lady to return the hood. Little did the farmhand know that this seemingly small event would lead to him being referred to as ‘the fool’ for centuries to come.
The fool gave the hood to one of the other farmhands who must have been chuffed when the Lady described him as having behaved like a lord. This young chancer has been described as ‘the lord’ forever thus. The other 11 farmhands were given the name ‘boggins’. There must be an origin to this phrase, but I think it is more fun to let the word boggins wash over you in an awesome wave and just accept it…
So fast forward 650 years or so and I find myself in a taxi on the way to the annual Haxey Hood event with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart. Little did I know that 10 pints, some milkshake flavoured strawberry vodka, 3 pork sandwiches and an embarrassing fall into some poor woman’s lap later I would be feeling a lot less chipper.
Preparations for Haxey Hood actually begin weeks before, but the official kick off to the day is the painting of the fool in the Carpenters Arms (Carps to the locals). This involves the fool having his face painted and his clothing feathered and then the drinking begins. From there the Boggins and some officials do the tour of the four pubs that take part in the Haxey Hood stopping off in each one to sing the traditional songs of the day.
I was in The Loco when the singing started and it is truly a spectacle; a pub packed full of people all singing and swaying along. If I had a sword in my belt and a goblet in my hand instead of dark berry cider in a plastic cup it would almost have felt like I had wandered onto the set of Game of Thrones.
The game itself is best described as a chaotic rugby scrum with an unlimited number of players. The object of the game is to get the long covered pole (representing Lady de Mowbray’s fateful hood) back to the pub of the players choice. This can go on long into the night and indeed there are stories of people leaving the scrum during daylight for some dinner only to return in the dark to join right back in.
After a few very enjoyable pints in The Loco where I first got a taste of the locals impeccable hospitality, everyone piled down to the churchyard to watch the smoking of the fool. This involves the fool delivering an impassioned speech whilst a small fire is set behind him. I suppose this is the 14th century version of pyrotechnics.
The fool then leads the crowd to the battle ground (or farmers field as it would be known for 364 days a year) and the Haxey Hood begins. As I am more of a wilting flower than an athlete I decided my inaugural appearance at Haxey Hood would be as a spectator rather than as a participant. After standing in the field for half an hour in which the scrum had moved about 10 metres, we decided to retire back to the pub and await the Hood’s glorious return to Haxey. After sampling an outrageously good pork sandwich we hunkered down in the historic Duke William Hotel for a few hours as the rain poured outside. It began to become clear that the Hood probably wasn’t going to come back to Haxey and therefore must have made its way to The Carpenters Arms in Westwoodside.
Unburdened by this turn of events, we rambled on to the Kings Arms and had a couple in there, before returning to the Duke William Hotel to see out the night. After consulting with a Haxey Hood veteran about what to bring with me before the big day, I had decided to bring a hip flask to help beat big queues in the pubs. Unfortunately the only thing I had left over from Christmas was strawberry milkshake flavoured vodka which to be honest, was rank. I bravely managed to force it down anyway and it was the heady mixture of crap spirits, good lager and great people that combined to make me miss a step on the way to the toilet and fall into a poor unsuspecting woman sat at the bar. Such is the buoyant mood around Haxey Hood however that she actually apologized to me and I went about my day.
Haxey Hood is a genuinely brilliant and affordable day out. They say everyone should try it at least once, but when you have been bitten by the Haxey Hood Bug you may well find yourself returning every year.
Words by Rob Johnson
All images credited to Alan Holgate and the www.haxeyhood.info website.

Bella goes to Sandall Beat Woods #TheDogsOfDoncaster PART 3 #DoncasterisGreat

Thank you to John, who wrote and took photographs for this very interesting and descriptive account of how fun dog walking in Doncaster can be, especially when you get your family involved. -Mia

So, it’s 8.30 Saturday morning and Bella is the happiest Labrador in the world, as I have just come down stairs wearing my walking the dog trousers.  Unfortunately, I am going to Sandall Park to watch the Park run! Bella is now the unhappiest dog in the world.

Fortunately, at 1 o’clock, two grandchildren arrive and she is happy again! Two grandchildren + 1 owner in dog walking trousers = woodland walk! Labrador maths. We arrive at the ample carpark and manage to get one of the last two spaces. Parking isn’t much of a problem, since there is almost a mile of it available on the grass verge alongside the racecourse. It just means you haven’t got as far to go.

Wellies are on and into the wood we go. We take the narrow and twisty single track, which looks out onto the racecourse and farmer’s fields.
It is more interesting than the broad flat paths that are also available and gives access to a ditch which is ideal for both grandchildren and Bella. Apparently, it would also provide an excellent refuge when the zombie apocalypse happens, according to youngest grandson who is an expert on such matters. Much of our trek round the wood will focus on important matters such as this.

Fungi – taken by John Potter

Before long we have found our first fungi and pictures are taken. Token pictures of grandchildren are also taken at random points. We head towards the water pumping station but detour away from the path to avoid it as there is a quite deep looking pool, which a certain Labrador would find far too interesting. After more fungi photographing and zombie repelling we find the main path for a short while. We then take a narrower manmade path which twists through the trees and fetches us out at the play area.

Bella in the woods – taken by John Potter

I sit with Bella and rest while the grandchildren play parkour tig on the slide tower and assorted play areas. We are soon joined by a friendly pug puppy and then it is time for a snack, drink and then we head back to the car. We take the wide flat paths back to the carpark since we are too tired to worry about interesting twisty singletrack.  On the way we meet a rather unfriendly, overzealous, ‘glad it’s on a lead’ Siberian husky. At the car, it is a two towel rub down for Bella while the grandchildren finish off any remaining zombies which might have had the misfortune to follow us.

Back at home, it is a final towel down for Bella and sausage, bacon, eggs and beans for us. Another great afternoon in the woods.

Photos and text by John Potter.

Edited by Mia Brook.

Doncaster's Furry Faces #TheDogsOfDoncaster PART 2 #Doncasterisgreat

For this installment of #TheDogsOfDoncaster, I decided to take a look at the furry friends themselves and the ways they bring the community together. Going out with Finn has opened our family up to a world of people and their pets, who we wouldn’t know if it wasn’t for getting out with the dog. Dogs have been around as pets for centuries, and not only providing company to their owners, but also giving happiness to anyone who meet them. Meeting the dogs below and their owners shows you how there is almost a different community, a canine community, that is all around you and yet without a 4-legged friend, you wouldn’t even know. In this post, I hope to change this, and show you that anyone can find and love this range of dogs in Doncaster, right outside their door.


Sometimes, you may just come across another dog and owner on your daily route, and chances are, it’s their daily route too. It is always nice to meet another owner and your dog will adore making friends with another pup. Take Hamish here, who loved saying hello to Finn.
“Husband and Wife”

Other times, you will have the chance to meet a new furry face, or perhaps two, on your travels. It was truly a pleasure to meet these two marvellous mutts, whose owner, when asked how they are related, simply replied that they were “husband and wife”.


Now, it is always great to discover new furry friends out walking, but as we are in good ol’ Donny, you will probably know your next door neighbours and perhaps even their canine companions. Emo and Pegasus are right up our street (quite literally) and Finn adores having two friends so close to home.

Don’t forget the owners too! The canine community is very tight knit and friendly dogs, such as Kizzy here, will allow you to connect with your friends who have perfect pooches too. You probably didn’t even know that you had a common interest- your dogs.

Many dogs will give you a run for your money and love to leg-it out on the fields. Energetic hounds will give your dogs plenty of exercise if you let them run wild. Finn loved chasing frantically after Frankie, leaving both of them flopping down into the mud and panting their tongues off!

Finally, we must take a look at our own majestic mutts, who open us up to the Doncaster we didn’t know existed. When you have a dog, multitudes of exciting adventures await. Wherever you are, whoever you meet, you are always going to have a good ‘walkies’. After all, these playful pooches are why we meet new friends, discover new places, and have a bit of a runaround!
A big thank you to all of the owners for allowing me to photograph your dogs and a “Woof!” to all of the brilliant pups featured. 

CAST's Spring Season for 2016

Cast, Doncaster’s Performance Venue, announces its Spring 2016 season, which continues to bring quality shows to the region.

The voices of Yorkshire mining communities are brought centre stage in John Godber’s new play Shafted! and Gary Clarke’s Company’s COAL. A poignant reminder of the loss of a once mighty British industry that went in decline 30 years ago under Thatcher’s government and ended this year, with the closure of Doncaster’s own Hatfield Colliery in July and Kellingley, North Yorkshire earlier this month.

A new comedy by John Godber, Shafted! (Thursday 18 – Saturday 20 February) follows an ex-miner and his wife on how they fought back over the past thirty years after the 1984-85 strikes. Starring John Godber himself alongside Jane Thornton, Shafted! brings back to the stage Godber’s and Thornton’s BAFTA award winning partnership.

Shafted Artwork 2016
Shafted! poster artwork

Marking the 1984-85 strikes 30th anniversary, choreographer Gary Clarke Company’s new dance theatre show COAL (Saturday 5 March) delves on the darker underbelly and human cost of the mining industry. Commissioned by a consortium including Cast, and endorsed by The National Union of Mineworkers, COAL brings together on stage seven high class dancers, a community ensemble drawn from local mining communities and live music from Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band in an ever relevant exploration of community and solidarity.

COAL Lead Image Landscape. Joe Armitage
COAL dance theatre

Another political drama of the season, United We Stand is a new production about the contested Shrewsbury 24 trial, which comes to the stage at the same times as campaigners call for the release of confidential documents alleged to show undue influence on the trial by the government at the time.

Further season highlights include a bold reimagining of Bizet’s Carmen set in an oil-rich, military dictatorship in Equatorial Guinea by Zimbabwean-born Bawren Tavaziva in Africarmen (Tue 23 February). The hard and uncompromising world of 1960s Newcastle rife with crime, sex and violence in Get Carter (Tue 5 – Sat 9 April), a new production by Northern Stage of the Ted Lewis’ novel, originally set in Doncaster and first made famous in the Mike Hodge film starring Michael Caine.

Africarmen image 2 credit DILLONROSE.COMB&W (2)

Also, from the team behind Birdsong comes a new production of the West End hit Shadowlands (Tue 26 – Sat 30 April), about the love story of beloved Chronicles of Narnia author CS Lewis.

SHADOWLANDS with title

For children and families Cast, in association with Manchester’s Z-Arts, brings a twenty-first century twist on the Hans Christian Anderson classic tale Snow Queen (Thu 17 – Sat 19 March), exploring modern families and online safety.

Snow Queen Hi res poster image with title-01
Snow Queen

Looking ahead to summer, Cast looks forward to hosting the world premiere of Northern Ballet’s Jane Eyre (Thu 19 – Sat 21 May), a new production for 2016 celebrating the 200th Brontë anniversary, and the return of Sadler’s Wells’ acclaimed international festival of hip hop dance theatre Breakin’ Convention (Saturday 7 May).

Northern Ballet Jane Eyre. Dancers Dreda Blow & Isaac Lee-Baker. Photo Guy Farrow
Northern Ballet’s Jane Eyre

Graham Whitehead, Head of marketing and communications at Cast comments:

“Cast’s continued success proves that Doncaster is a town where arts and culture can and does thrive, with over eighty thousand visitors coming through the doors this year. Our new Spring Season for 2016 sees some of the biggest national companies bringing new world-class shows to Doncaster, as we continue to establish Cast as the town’s cultural living room and a cultural powerhouse for the region.”

Tickets for Cast’s Spring 2016 season are available from Cast’s Box Office on 01302 303 959 or online at castindoncaster.com.

Doncaster's Dog Walks #TheDogsOfDoncaster PART 1 #Doncasterisgreat

I cannot begin to recall the countless times my family have argued over where to walk our dog.

Searching on the internet, trying to find somewhere nice that isn’t too far away, is free to enter and above all, is dog friendly. And by this, I mean where Finn, my 2 year old goldendoodle, can run free and stretch his (very long) legs. Soon, I began to realise, why do we need to travel to find a beautiful spot to spend some time outdoors when there are perfect places to visit right on your doorstep. Here are my top 3 places to get outdoors with your dog in Doncaster.


3. Lakeside village

Most people have heard of Lakeside Village, a small outside shopping centre located near the Keepmoat Stadium, and some will know of the small lake and walk nearby – but you might not know the extent of how beautiful this place really is.

The main path follows parallel to the road to begin with, leading to a little pebbly beach where the swans of the lake swim and walk nearby. If you carry on walking down this path, you will find yourself walking over bridges to small islands in the middle of the water.

There’s parking available on the road and dogs are welcome, preferably on a lead (especially if your dog is uneasy with birds and swans). This is a picturesque area with beautiful views across the water – particularly at sunrise and sunset.

To find directions to Lakeside, go to Lakeside, Google Maps.

Chilling on the pebbly beach at Lakeside

2. Warning Tongue Lane wood

My family fondly refer to this as “the Yorkshire Wildlife wood” due to it being (quite literally) next door to the wildlife park.

With its long and mossy clearings to the sloping paths, Warning Tongue Lane wood is the perfect place for your dog to run.

Tennis balls are easily lost due to the mossy undergrowth (you have been warned!), however prepare yourself for an amazing experience with your furry friend, whatever the weather.

Great for dogs of all shapes and sizes, even larger dogs will find this wood the most exhilirating place to let loose. Dogs off leads are encouraged, so make sure to be careful letting your pup off near the main road.

There is a small turn-off for parking and you may need to pull up near and on bushes and brambles. Don’t let this stop you from visiting such a lovely place that is tucked away in the most obvious of places.

To find directions to Warning Tongue Lane wood, go to Warning Tongue Lane, Google Maps.


1. Melton Woods

And finally, the best place to walk your dog in Doncaster goes to… Melton woods!

If your furry friend enjoys a good long walk, then this is the place for you. What sets it apart from other walks is the wood isn’t thick and dense meaning daylight doesn’t get blocked out, and the long winding paths make you feel as though you could be anywhere in the world.

There’s something different around every corner; one minute you’re walking under a canopy of emerald leaves, the next you’re staring up at the towering trees reaching towards the golden sun.

Your dog will love it too; there are all sorts of smells for your dog to sniff and you’re bound to bump into another friendly dog and owner who will give your pup a proper play.

There’s a little car park outside from the road and your dog deserves to be off lead in this fantastic location.

A couple of pointers:

  1. Sometimes there are hunters shooting guns behind the wood and although they will bring no harm to your dog, they may make him/her jump a bit.
  2. Due to the large trails, horse riding groups may come from time to time but as long as you keep your dog under control, you should all be fine.
  3. Finally, if you are planning to go after a substantial amount of rain, I strongly recommend wearing wellies and bringing a towel to dry your pup’s muddy paws with! All that said, if you do get chance then head down to Melton Woods and trust me, you won’t regret it.

To find directions to Melton Woods, go to Melton Wood, Google Maps.

Having a good run in Melton Woods

And there you have it. The first installment of #TheDogsOfDoncaster. Check back next time for some more about Man’s Best Friend in the Doncaster area!

Photos taken by Jo Brook