Bumps, bruises and blood returned to a County Durham town and residents celebrated a time-honoured tradition with great gusto. Reporter Darcie Rawlings headed to in the County Durham village today (Tuesday, February 13) to see the historic game for the first time.

Every year, Sedgefield Ball Game sees the County Durham town become a gladiator’s arena as residents’ scrum to be crowned winner.

The Shrove Tuesday tradition is a complete tactical free-for-all involving the fight for a ball in Sedgefield town centre.

The Northern Echo: Residents huffed and puffed around the town centre

After hearing horror stories of broken windows, pictures of giant pile ons and being urged to park my car far outside of the town centre, with complete transparency I was full of trepidation before my visit to the Sedgefield Ball Game.

A buzz of excitement filled the town as the area began to crowd with residents, armed with pints and giant grins in anticipation.

The Northern Echo: The game is launched when the village elder passes the small leather ball through a hoop on the

The sport kicks off every year with a respected member of the community known as a ‘village elder’ passing the small leather ball through a hoop on the town green, before it’s launched in the air.

The Northern Echo: Rita Curry the village elder chosen to launch the Sedgefield Ball Game

It was Rita Curry’s turn to inaugurate the annual match this year. Thrilled to be involved, she was excited to get stuck into the game but said it was a shame she couldn’t run after the ball.

Discussing the game with Norma Neal, who has been a Sedgefield resident of 53 years, she said: “It’s a tradition and as far as I’m aware it’s the only one like it in the UK.”

Without rules or teams, the residents know what they are lettign themselves in for. But it isn’t all rough and tumble - it’s a family and community affair and a great excuse to celebrate the local community.

The Northern Echo: The game often stopped or calmed to allow younger competitors to get their chance

My heart raced as the ball was launched through the air and the pace of the game was intense -  despite a few blunders with traffic which at one point saw the ball stuck on the roof of a bus.

True sportsmanship was shown as players barely blinked an eyelid before rocking the bus to retrieve the ball.

The Northern Echo: The Sedgefield tradition was interrupted by a passing bus

Following the bustling crowds felt like immersive theatre, I found myself really wanting to get involved and cheering on players. I quickly realised this wasn’t a mindless excuse for a fight but a respected and respectful sport.

One young boy - red in the face, covered in mud and almost of breath - stopped to tell me I should get involved. He said the game was his favourite day of the year as he gets the entire day off school to take part.

He also shouted that he had been in the pub since 8 o’clock in the morning as he jumped back into the tangled scrum.

A lot of the residents taking part were younger and there was plenty of grace given to children getting involved. The game often stopped or calmed to allow younger competitors to get their chance which was incredibly heart-warming.

The Northern Echo: There was blood, sweat but no tears as the residents tackled, chased and battled each other

There was blood, sweat but no tears as the residents tackled, chased and battled each other. The enthusiasm was beaming from the faces of Sedgefield residents as they huffed and puffed around the town centre.

The Northern Echo: Peter Wren kicked the ball in the annual celebration this year

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Peter Wren, who stood to watch the game beside his house which overlooks the pitch, said he wasn’t worried about his house despite local businesses boarding up their front windows.

He said: “Its part of what makes Sedgefield. There hasn’t been a broken window for years and if it does happen it’s accidental - I think it’s a great community event.”

Incredibly theatrical, emotional, heart-warming and thrilling, the Sedgefield Ball Game was an unbelievable experience to witness first-hand.

Above all the game exuded a great sense of community identity for the residents who I’m sure will look forward to the Shrove Tuesday ball game for years to come.