The nation goes nuts in May to go

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The Independent Online
WHILE SOME people head for the hills today and others for the beaches, some will spend the first weekend of summer engaging in more idiosyncratic pursuits; paddling across a pond in giant Yorkshire puddings, for instance.

If the British are a nation of eccentrics, then warm weather brings out the worst in us. Among the activities being staged this bank holiday weekend are a ram-roasting festival in Devon, a cheese rolling competition in Gloucester and a gold-panning championship in Scotland.

The person planning to entrust himself to a vessel made of milk, flour and eggs is nine-year-old Robbie Thackray, fromBrawby, near Malton, north Yorkshire, whose uncle, Simon Thackray, dreamt up the idea over a pint in a local pub.

"I rushed to my local supermarket and bought a pack of deep-frozen individual Yorkshire puddings, cooked them and let them dry," Mr Thackray said yesterday.

"I coated the outside in polyurethane boat paint, put a Barbie doll in one and and an Action Man in another, and sailed them in a bath. The idea was born, and it worked. It was then just a matter of scaling up the plans."

Robbie will race against schoolfriends skippering 3ft- diameter Yorkshire puddings, each made from 50lb of flour, 50 eggs and 10 pints of milk, their sides reinforced with chicken wire.

Up in Wanlockhead, north of Dumfries, scores of gold- panning enthusiasts will pit their skills in the car park of the Museum of Lead Mining today. Gold flakes and even small nuggets are regularly found in local streams.

Gerard Godfrey, the museum's curator, said 100 contestants were expected. "It's basically a lot of men in dirty raincoats," he said.

Much of the nation is preparing to spend the weekend in a more conservative fashion - by going away on holiday, for instance.

The Association of British Travel Agents predicted an exodus of 1.5 million people through airport lounges, with Spain and Greece the most popular destinations.

For those who stay in Britain, the weather is forecast to be warm but unsettled, with the risk of a thunderstorm.

The tailbacks and traffic jams traditional at this time of year are certain to materialise this weekend. The RAC said that it expected a flood of 2.8 million cars on to the country's motorways.

The motoring organisations were the subject of lurid headlines yesterday. A court heard that an AA salesman punched a rival from the RAC while both were pitching for business in Norwich.

This weekend, sporting events such as England's World Cup cricket clash against India at Edgbaston, Birmingham, and the Volvo PGA Golf Championship at Wentworth, Surrey, are expected to attract large crowds.

There will also be the Southend Air Show in Essex.

People anxious to witness a ram being roasted should head to Kingsteignton, Devon, for a ceremony with medieval origins. When there was drought, so legend has it, villagers would sacrifice a ram in the local riverbed and then water would spring from the barren earth.

But if you have an urgent interest in hovercrafts, Hampshire is the place to be this weekend.

The Hovercraft Society has organised an extravaganza in Gosport.

It will feature an exhibition of hovercraft "through the ages" as well as talks on the history of this most fascinating of conveyances.