2009 - Episode 5: The Shires

Episode 5: The Shires

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The lads’ first stop on this week’s leg of the tour is Gloucestershire, where they take part in a spot of competitive tree climbing. The event was originally started as a sport in the 1970s, but now boasts annual national and world championship competitions. Having had some basic training, Paddy is confident that this challenge will be easy. “I reckon I’ll piss that,” he boasts. However, Rory is not so sure. “It feels like I'm trying to lift a grand piano,” he huffs as he embarks on his first climb.

After gaining some valuable tips from former British champion Jo Hedger, the boys prepare for a speed-climbing contest. Paddy, nicknamed ‘the Bolton baboon’ by Rory, scales the tree easily. Given his large physique, Rory is expected to finish last by all present, including himself. However, Jo has taught Rory some special techniques that may give him the edge in the competition.

The next day, Rory and Paddy have a go at sheep shearing. “I bet Nicky Clarke is shitting himself,”Paddy says. After a quick practice, the pair go to the Three Counties Show in Malvern to try their hand at shearing in front of an audience. Paddy was quicker during the rehearsals, but will the large audience unnerve him?

The intrepid duo then travel to Derbyshire to take part in the World Hen Racing Championships in the village of Bonsall. Paddy opts for a Black Rock racing hen, controversially chosen from outside the village, which he christens ‘Mrs McGrath’. Rory decides to stick with a locally sourced hen, which he charmingly names ‘Cock Tease’. As they place their chickens on the 30-yard track, the boys are told the rules – they can hold a treat out to their respective birds, but are not allowed to call to them or touch them in any way. Will both participants be able to comply?

The next stop on the trip is Warwickshire, where the pair take part in the UK’s most prestigious farriery competition at the Royal Agricultural Show in Stoneleigh. After a dry run, the lads are given half an hour to forge a horse shoe. They are aided by skilled professionals, but there is still a mad scramble in the closing seconds for both to finish their work. Who will emerge victorious from the smoke and steam? And will both manage to avoid injury?

Finally, Rory and Paddy hit Staffordshire for a spot of lawn mower racing. “This all looks a bit scary,” Rory says after viewing the track. Paddy zooms off to an early lead, whereas Rory’s approach to the race is a little more sedate. However, Paddy suffers some engine trouble and Rory very slowly closes the gap between them. Will this be a classic example of the tortoise triumphing over the hare?

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