November 05, 2012

Struth! Worm your way to world champion

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 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, Tom Shufflebotham 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 driving wooden stakes in and rubbing them with steel rods, while some choose the most popular method - driving a garden fork into the ground and "twanging" it like a guitar.

And in more recent years, some have bent the rules a little, sprinkling the turf on which the Championships are held with cold tea and beer to encourage the ever-thirsty worms to pop up for a drink.

The current record of 567 worms charmed out of the ground in thirty minutes was set by locals Miss S. and Mr M. Smith in 2009.

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