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Inside Britain’s most weird and wonderful villages – from the community stuck in the 1920s to a nudist colony and the teetotal home of Cadbury chocolate


Britain has a beautiful history of charming villages and towns – and many are steeped in proud traditions dating back many years.

Yet there are a few that veer more towards the quirky than the quaint and sometimes even the most pleasant-seeming places have the most peculiar of traditions.

Here, we look at some of the more eyebrow-raising examples – from the outwardly sleepy community that harbours a sect of druids who dance naked through the forest, to the quintessential English hamlet that loves chocolate but hates booze and has banned all the pubs.

England’s green and pleasant land has really never looked so weird or so wonderful…

The Bruderof community in Sussex has 300 members, who have restricted themselves to an old-fashioned way of life. Pictured is the documentary Inside the Bruderhof

The Bruderof community in Sussex has 300 members, who have restricted themselves to an old-fashioned way of life. Pictured is the documentary Inside the Bruderhof

With its quaint tearooms and lovingly restored ‘Bluebell’ steam railway, East Grinstead would seem to be the quintessential English market town

With its quaint tearooms and lovingly restored ‘Bluebell’ steam railway, East Grinstead would seem to be the quintessential English market town

The quaint village where booze is banned

Bournville, the home to Cadbury‘s chocolate, has a ban on alcohol.

The village has banned booze for decades and the locals love it, with the ban making living there more appealing for some.

There are no pubs, the shops don’t sell alcohol and if anyone is caught drinking in the parks they will have it snatched away are poured down a drain.

Lying a few miles south of Birmingham, locals told The Sun it’s a ‘lovely, safe and peaceful’ area and they are glad to have no ‘drunken yobs’. 

The ‘no booze’ rule has been enforced for the last 120 years and those living there said they have the ‘best of both worlds’.

Bournville, the home to Cadbury's chocolate, has banned alcohol

Bournville, the home to Cadbury’s chocolate, has banned alcohol

The home of Scientology and naked dancing druids

With its quaint tearooms, and restored ‘Bluebell’ steam railway, East Grinstead would seem to be the quintessential English market town.

Except for the fact it’s known as the UK home of Scientology. Once a bastion of Anglicanism, in recent years it has become a magnet for esoteric sects and quasi‑religious fringe groups.

They range from Scientologists and Mormons to more obscure organisations such as the Rosicrucians, an esoteric spiritual and cultural movement that dates back to the 17th century, and Opus Dei, the arcane Catholic faction that spawned a fictitious murderous albino monk in Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code.

But the town has attracted other outlandish types, too.

Druids who are said to dance naked at dead of night in the nearby forest. Satanists. Pagans who believe the earth on which East Grinstead was built conceals a network of ‘ley lines’ that emit waves of spiritual energy.

Druids are said to dance naked at dead of night in the forest. (File photo of a druid ceremony)

Druids are said to dance naked at dead of night in the forest. (File photo of a druid ceremony)

Saint Hill Manor, European Headquarters of the Church of Scientology near East Grinstead, West Sussex in a 1998 file photo

Saint Hill Manor, European Headquarters of the Church of Scientology near East Grinstead, West Sussex in a 1998 file photo

The community stuck in the 1920s

The Bruderof community in Sussex has 300 members, who have restricted themselves to an old-fashioned way of life.

Women wear ankle-length skirts and require to be given permission to ‘court’.

The strict dress code – likened to that in the 1920s – is to ‘protect’ them, according to the men in the group.

Teenage dating is banned and members must wait until they have been baptised and they are in their early 20s.

One woman told the BBC how she was caught with a boyfriend in the 2000s and was subject to ‘public shaming’ and her ‘crimes’ were read out in front of a crowd.

Mobile phones, video games and computers are all banned and everyone in the community is assigned an unpaid job. 

The strict dress code - likened to that in the 1920s - is to 'protect' them, according to the men

The strict dress code – likened to that in the 1920s – is to ‘protect’ them, according to the men

Mobile phones, video games and computers are all banned and everyone in the community is assigned an unpaid job

Mobile phones, video games and computers are all banned and everyone in the community is assigned an unpaid job

The seaside village which banned bodyboards 

The seaside village of Westward Ho! in Devon was the first in the UK to ban polystyrene bodyboards in 2021.

The self-imposed ban means no independent retailers in the village can sell the boards in order to protect the environment.

Over 97 per cent of the residents voted for the measure in 2020 due to the damage the cheap boards were causing.

Single-use polystyrene boards crumble away in the sea and cause harm to wildlife who mistake the material for food. 

In their place, the village plans to implement a For Hire service which allows visitors to rent better quality boards for their holiday.

The seaside village of Westward Ho! in Devon was the first in the UK to ban polystyrene bodyboards in 2021

The seaside village of Westward Ho! in Devon was the first in the UK to ban polystyrene bodyboards in 2021

The self-imposed ban means no independent retailers in the village can sell the boards in order to protect the environment

The self-imposed ban means no independent retailers in the village can sell the boards in order to protect the environment

 The fairytale town which declared a war on dogs

One Cornish town was accused of declaring a war on dogs after it banned the pets for every green space in the area.

Dogs are banned from parks in Callington, and have been for more than a decade, following concerns around dog attacks.

This means owners have to travel an hour away from their homes to walk their beloved pooches. 

Meanwhile, the fairytale village of Downham in Lancashire has banned TV aerials, power lines and satellite dishes to protect its aesthetic feel.

The village – which has been owned by the same ancestral family for 500 years – is committed to remaining spoilt by modern life.

The Assheston family spokesperson told the Manchester Evening News previously: ‘Downham may look preserved in aspic, but it is a vibrant and thriving community supporting a range of businesses.

‘One example is the transformation of Brookside Barn in the village into office accommodation and, nearby, the eco-friendly Bowland Bioenergy, which supplies sustainable wood fuel products for biomass heating.

‘The Estate today is grappling with how to achieve as low a carbon footprint as possible and the current challenge is to upgrade very old and listed properties while avoiding damage and ugly alterations.’ 

Every single door must be painted green – and no takeaways allowed

A similar rule is in place for Wentworth, in South Yorkshire. The village has been labelled as ‘draconian’ as is has banned takeaway restaurants.

It also has a strict rule that all the doors must be painted green.

Residents must request permission from the ‘village trust’ to make changes to their houses and there isn’t a supermarket in sight.

Those visiting the quaint village may notice the distinct lack of neon signs.

There’s a village shop – where locals can buy sandwiches, pots of jam and lemon curd, milk and essentials – two pubs and a restaurant. 

Visitors travel from miles around to to gaze upon Wentworth Woodhouse, the village’s grand stately home, or to shop at Wentworth Garden Centre.

Local wine merchant Matt Thompson told Yorkshire Live: ‘It’s forced to be [traditional] because of the rules the estate has to abide by, everything has to be uniform.

‘Hence all the ‘Wentworth Green’. I see it everybody – but yes people come in and say ‘what a great village’.’ 

A similar rule is in place for Wentworth, in South Yorkshire. The village has been labelled as 'draconian' as is has banned takeaway restaurants

A similar rule is in place for Wentworth, in South Yorkshire. The village has been labelled as ‘draconian’ as is has banned takeaway restaurants

It also has a strict rule that all the doors must be painted green

It also has a strict rule that all the doors must be painted green

Residents must request permission from the 'village trust' to make changes to their houses and there isn't a supermarket in sight

Residents must request permission from the ‘village trust’ to make changes to their houses and there isn’t a supermarket in sight

 No clothes allowed in the village

The village of Spielplatz has a rather different tradition – it’s been home to a nudist colony for 85 years.

It’s the longest operating nudist resort in the UK and consists of 12 acres of land in the village of Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire. 

Comprised of 65 houses, it was founded in 1929 by Charles Macaskie, who bought the site for £500.

Veteran resident Iseult ­Richardson told The Mirror: ‘There is no difference between naturists and people who live up the street.

The village of Spielplatz has been home to a nudist colony for 85 years

The village of Spielplatz has been home to a nudist colony for 85 years

Trips to their own local pub, swimming sessions and meal times are all performed in the nude

Trips to their own local pub, swimming sessions and meal times are all performed in the nude

‘We all live normal lives but are just lucky enough to live in this extraordinary place. It’s like a small estate.

‘We have all sorts of deliveries. The milkman comes and delivers and we used to have a paperboy though that’s stopped now.

‘The postmen and tradesmen know us and take us as they find us. They never seem perturbed.’

While residents prefer stripping off, they will adorn wellingtons, trousers or appropriate clothing when carrying out tasks like gardening.

Trips to their own local pub, swimming sessions and meal times are all performed in the nude.

Earlier this year one woman spoke of how life in the village cured her of body esteem issues.

Tina Yates was self-conscious of a scar on her abdomen following an operation, and was taken to Spielplatz by her naturist husband in the hope it may cheer her up.

Soon the pensioner had let go of all her previous body hang-ups, and the couple settled in permanently.

While those living behind its fences are free of inhibitions, tensions are fraught over an ongoing debate about whether to force visitors to bare all when they come to see family.



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