Posts Tagged ‘Willaston’

Charming Worms

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

A few weeks ago, my friend Jon mentioned he had once competed in a chicken racing competition. This led to further discussions about other animal-related events that happen throughout England. It was this procrastination-driven discussion that eventuated in Jon and I attending one of England’s most prestigious sporting events – The World Worm Charming Championships. Yes. Worm charming. Amazing AND true.

That worm has been charmed.

That worm has been charmed.

Located in Willaston, a small market town and centre of all things worms (apparently), people came from far and wide (Jon and I drove for at least an hour to be there) to compete in and witness the wonder that is worm charming. When I found out about the event, I read the website description and imagined boxes of soil, a maximum of 15 competitors (all of them over the age of 65, male and wearing tartan hats) and a lot of waiting. So I was extremely surprised as we drove into Willaston and found rows of parked cars and hordes of people carry garden implements and heading in the direction of Willaston County Primary School. It would appear worm charming was popular.

The World Worm Charming Championship has been held in Willaston since 1980 and it would appear the organisers know what they are doing. The Primary School’s playground had been carefully divided into 144 plots of 3 x 3 metres. Competitors of all age groups were running around making final preparations for the big event. Jon and I immediately realised that we were unprepared for worm charming and that us entering the competition at the last minute would be a pointless and futile decision and we would simply look like fools. We would watch, learn and gain valuable knowledge for next year’s event. And learn we did.

The Willaston Rose Queen counted down the start of the competition and as the siren sounded, the relative peace of the primary school field turned into a hub-bub of banging, clanging, yelling, and general eagerness. My eyes bulged and my jaw dropped – never before had I seen so many humans performing such a ridiculous act. A ridiculous yet utterly brilliant act!

It would appear that if you stick a garden fork into lawn and proceed to vibrate and shake it while also stamping your feet and hitting mallets against the ground, the worms will come. Hundreds of competitors were banging drums, shaking garden forks, jumping, tap dancing and hitting coconuts against pieces of wood on the ground in order to simulate the vibrations of rain hitting earth. This is what gets worms really excited and makes them rise to the surface. Once the worms were visible, swift hands snatched them up, placed them into plastic containers and the team with the most worms would be crowned the winners. I have never seen so many worms exiting lawn before, nor did I ever expect to. I couldn’t believe how quickly, easily and regularly worms were coming out of the ground – one a second is what the commentator estimated.

Fork action.

Fork action.

The competition lasted 30 minutes which is a very long time to whack lawn for. There were hundreds of exhausted competitors who had gone out too hard in the first 10 minutes and didn’t have the stamina to last the full duration. There was one man who had sweat pouring off his nose as he pushed himself for the entire length of competition time, while also pushing his 8 year old son out of the way as he clearly wasn’t being useful at all.

Hundreds of worm charmers.

Hundreds of worm charmers.

As the competition came to an end, excitement grew over the record number of worms that were being collected. It had been a good year for worms – warm conditions leading up to some rain just before the big day. The worms were plentiful and it made for an excellent competition. The results have been released and the winners were the Bowden family with 394 worms. According to Crewe News, they were even interviewed by a Russian news crew. Such international exposure.

The sheer ridiculousness of the Worm Charming Championship made it one of those community events that you just hope will continue to exist for generations to come. There was a bouncy castle, a sausage sizzle and more tombola competitions than were really necessary spread out over the school grounds and some excellent dance and singing performances from local children’s groups. The community vibe was plentiful and I loved it. I really hope to be able to participate one year. I might need to come back to the UK just for it. I’m off to practise my fork vibrating.