August 29, 2012

Struth! Get a wriggle on! World worm championships

IN his continuing search for the more weird, whacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says hundreds of people with obviously little better to do, descend on the English village of Willaston in Cheshire every July for the World Worm Charming Championships.

The idea is to lure as many worms as possible out of a designated 3m X 3m area of farm turf in half an hour, with contestants using a wondrous array of devices to "vibrate" the soil, which makes the inquisitive worms come up for a look.

It's an ancient art often used by anglers seeking bait, and in 1980 after a Willaston farmer's son lured over 500 worms out of the ground in a half hour, the International Federation of Charming Worms and Allied Pastimes was formed to conduct the annual Willaston Championships.

Today it attracts worm charmers from around the world, some contestants simply thumping the ground with their open palms, others plunging wooden stakes in and rubbing them with steel rods, while some drive garden forks into the ground and "twang" their handles with wooden or metal objects somewhat like guitars to apparently make the fork's prongs vibrate.

And several contestants a few years ago sprinkled the turf on which the Championships were held with cold tea and beer to encourage the ever-thirsty worms to pop up for a drink –  until "drugs and stimulants," that even included water, were barred.

The current record of 567 worms charmed out of the ground in thirty minutes was set by schoolgirl Sophie Smith and her dad Matt in July 2009.

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