15 ways to celebrate May Day - including Morris dancing at dawn, processions, fetes, fairs, scarecrows, dawn chorus walks and farmyard fun
PUBLISHED: 17:48 25 April 2018 | UPDATED: 17:48 25 April 2018
How to mark May Day and the May Day bank holiday weekend in Norfolk and Suffolk
May Day is a traditional spring festival marked around Britain by maypole and Morris dancing, the crowning of May queens, village fetes and rural events. The celebrations begin at dawn on May Day, and this year continue right through to the May Day bank holiday on Monday May 7.
1 May Day merriment begins at dawn on Tuesday May 1, in King’s Lynn with Morris dancing on Knight’s Hill roundabout (the location chosen because it is the highest spot for miles around, meaning a fine view of the sunrise if the weather is kind.)
Then, at noon, members of the King’s Morris take a May Day garland on a procession through the town, beginning at the Saturday Market Place and accompanied by the blowing of ox horns and more Morris dancing. kingsmorris.co.uk
2 Morris dancers will be clashing sticks and jingling bells as the May Day sun rises over Mousehold Heath, Norwich, at around 5am. After dawn dancing at James’ Hill, they will move on to and dance to the Forum at 6am and then the Cathedral Close at 7am.
3 You don’t even have to wait for May Day or get up at dawn to see Morris Men. This Saturday April 28 Rumburgh Morris celebrates its 10th anniversary with a day of dance in Bungay. Bigod’s Bungay Bone Rattler Day of Dance takes place across the town between 11am 4pm with dancers from Morris sides across East Anglia performing at locations including the Buttercross, the Green Dragon, Chequers Inn and beside Bungay Castle. rumburghmorris.org.uk
4 May Day was celebrated with processions, plays, pageantry, music and dancing in Tudor Times – and will be again at Kentwell, in Long Melford, near Sudbury, from May 5-7. More than 100 costumed Tudors will be in the manor and gardens and there are also family trails through the farm. kentwell.co.uk
5 Set your alarm clock extra early on Saturday April 28, to hear the dawn chorus from 6am at Strumpshaw Fen. Learn some of the distinctive songs and calls of birds as you walk through woodlands and reedbeds with an expert guide. Ideal for older children and adults; tickets include drinks and croissants and must be booked in advance from rspb.org.uk/strumpshawfen
6 It’s International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday, May 6. Celebrate nature’s morning symphony with a special walk at Heigham Holme, near Martham from 5am. It’s a chance to see marsh harriers, wildfowl, spring migrants and maybe even bittern and cranes – before enjoying a continental breakfast. Beginners and older children welcome. Pre-booking essential at nationaltrust.org.uk/heigham-holmes/whats-on
7 Hear the dawn chorus at Holkham on Saturday April 28 or May 5. Learn to identify the calls of different song birds during the guided sessions at Wells Beach from 5.30-7.30am. Tickets £5, booking essential on 01328 713111 or at holkham.co.uk
8 See spring springing at a farm and countryside day at Mayfields Farm, Foulsham, near Reepham, on Saturday April 28. The fun day out for all the family includes the chance to see lambs, goats, ponies, a family dog show, sheepdog demonstrations, pond dipping, a barn owl, sheep shearing and refreshments. mayfieldsfarm.co.uk
9 Meet 120 scarecrows at the Martham Scarecrow Festival on Sunday and Monday, May 6-7. The fun, at Martham, near Yarmouth, will also include yarn bombing, games and stalls, 10am-5pm each day.
10 The Rose May Fete at Ringsfield, near Beccles, includes a dog show, arena displays, live music and stalls at the village hall from 10am to 4pm on Monday May 7. Entry £1, accompanied children free.
11 The Broads Outdoors Festival is underway and one of the many free activities on offer on Saturday April 28 is canoeing.
Never canoed but always fancied having a go? Try a free taster session between 9am and 12 noon at one of the 10 Broads Canoe Hire Association centres across the Broads. First come, first served, children must be accompanied by an adult. visitthebroads.co.uk
12 The annual May family fun day at Day at Heigham Park, run by churches across Norwich, will be held on Monday May 7 with all proceeds going to charity.
13 The Spirit of Beowulf Community Festival promises five days of magic, music and mystery on the banks of the beautiful River Deben from May 3-7. The free festival, in Woodbridge, celebrates links between the epic poem, Beowulf, and the treasures found in the royal burial site at Sutton Hoo. facebook.com/BeowulfFestival
14 A classic vehicle rally and country fayre is being held at Earsham Hall on Sunday May 6 by Bungay Lions. The family day out will also include craft stalls, food, children’s entertainment and pony rides. Adults £5, under 16s free
15 May Day was banned, along with most fun stuff, by 17th century Puritans, but that didn’t stop traditions surviving across the country – including the belief that if you wash your face in dew just before sunrise on May 1 your complexion will be flawless all year. Revellers still gather in Oxford to hear the Magdalen College choir sing early morning madrigals from the top of the tower and in Cornwall the Padstow Hobby Horse festivities are one of the oldest fertility rites in the UK.