DONKEYS will go head to head as they gallop their way through a series of races for the return of a madcap event in an Oxfordshire village.

While most towns and villages opt for summer fetes and festivals at this time of year, Bampton enjoys its Annual Donkey Derby.

Villagers will gather in Sanford’s Field on the August Bank Holiday for the quirky tradition, where villagers and visitors bet on child jockeys racing one another atop donkeys.

The event is held by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Junketing (SPAJERS), which raises funds to take the village’s elderly residents on a day out.

Don Rouse, who has been involved in organising the event for nearly 50 years, said: “It's a lovely event. They do go off at quite a speed, and occasionally one will stop to eat a blade of grass.

“There’s a brilliant atmosphere. Most people have just got back from holiday and they come out and chat away.”

The races, of which there are eight throughout the day, could earn risk-takers a bit of cash – but Mr Rouse warned its nothing to be too excited about.

The 80-year-old joked: “People aren’t going to make their fortune on it. They will still have to go to work on Monday.

“We really rely upon the children of Bampton to ride the donkeys in the races – and on their parents to back them with a bet.”

The event is still as popular as ever, but a few things have changed over the years – mainly due to health and safety.

In the old days, Mr Rouse said, the donkeys would be wild. Rode without saddle, there were frequent accidents – which changed when new tamer donkeys were introduced to the event.

Mr Rouse said: “Even now there’ll be somebody from the donkey welfare association. It’s got to the point that now I know him quite well. He’ll make sure the donkeys aren’t running too many races straight off.

“Also, no rider must be over eight stone. We used to have an adult race at the end after the bar was open all day – and then we had some real fun."

The derby hopes to raise enough money to send two coaches of the village's senior citizens to the seaside. This year they will head to Weymouth.

But it isn't just the village's elderly residents who benefit from the event.

Mr Rouse continued: "The event has a twofold benefit. The first is for our pensioners and the second is for the donkeys. We purposely hire them from Weston-super-Mare so that they get a day out in the lush grass of a meadow in Bampton."

The event will start in the field at 2pm on Monday, August 28.