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The small rural town of Ottery St Mary in the south west of England plays host to the annual ‘Tar Barrels’ night each 5 November. Locals residents (including children) run through crowded, tightly packed streets with 17 burning barrels of tar held on their shoulders, before lighting a giant bonfire next to the River Otter.

You may think this sounds like lunacy but it’s a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. Although its origins are unknown there are a number of theories. Some think it stems from a pagan ritual of cleansing the town of evil forces however it most probably began after the Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot back in the early 17th century.

There have been many attempts to stop this much loved South West tradition but the residents have worked tirelessly to keep the event going. Although it has always been popular it now attracts over 15,000 people each year.

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