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London Sports & Games

London has its sports and games as much as anywhere. The Serpentine lake in Hyde Park is not just for Olympic events; there is a permanent swimming club and every Christmas Day at 9am they have a race for the Peter Pan Cup. Assembled photographers hope that there will be thick ice and driving snow but there seldom are. The RAC London to Brighton Veteran Car Run was first held in 1896 but has only been an annual event since 1927, except for the war years. The cars must have been built before 1905, which means that a substantial number fail to finish. However any reference to ‘old crocks’ is definitely unwelcome. In 2011 there were over 500 entries from all over the world. The run starts in Hyde Park at 7 o’clock in the morning of the first Sunday in November and the first arrive in Brighton at about 10. It is not a race though, participants must not average more than 20 mph for the 60-mile journey. Mob Football comes to north London on Boxing Day in the form of the Bakers and Sweeps fracas at Waltham Cross. You can take it from us that Football in the Strand doesn’t happen any more. Doggett’s Coat and Badge rowing race does, though, on the Thames between London Bridge and Cadogan Pier in Chelsea in accordance with the bequest of the actor Thomas Doggett in 1715, who wanted to show his appreciation for the watermen who rowed him across the river every day. The four mile race is for watermen in the first year out of apprenticeship and the winner is awarded a fine red coat and a huge silver badge, which he is expected to wear on formal Waterman’s Company occasions and in the Lord Mayor’s Show. The ‘Pancake Greaze’ still takes place on Shrove Tuesday in Westminster School but the Bartholomew’s Fair games are things of the past.