Almanac . . . . . . .
And just what is worm charming, you might ask. Well it’s definitely nothing like snake charming, so let me enlighten you.
In worm charming, competitors use their skills to entice as many worms as they possibly can to the surface of their allocated plot. They are then collected into a jar and, at the end of the time allowed, the worms in each jar are counted and weighed. There are prizes for the most worms collected, the heaviest worm, the youngest competitor, and other categories.
This annual event takes place in Willaston, near Crewe, Cheshire, on the playing fields of Willaston Primary School. The championships were started in 1980 by the then- deputy headmaster, John Bailey, who wrote the original rules for the competition. The rules are now available in over 30 different languages. Each contestant is given a square plot of grass measuring three metres by three and, after a five- minute warm- up period, they are allowed 30 minutes to collect their worms. The British Association of Worm Length Supporters ( BAWLS) stipulates that all worms must be returned to the ground after the contest.
The most successful method used so far is that of hand vibrating a four- tine garden fork inserted approximately six inches into the turf, now known locally in South Cheshire as “twanging”. Other methods include playing musical
instruments and stamping on the ground, the vibrations bringing the worms to the surface as they are tricked into thinking that rain is falling. Someone has even tried riding an adapted bicycle, though how that worked is not known.
Competitors compete for a trophy in the shape of a golden rampant worm which is awarded to the
person charming the most worms from their plot. This title is held for one year. The competitor charming the heaviest worm holds the silver worm trophy for one year.
The first Worm Charming World Record was set in 1980 by Mr. Tom Shufflebotham, who raised 511 worms from his plot. This remained unbroken until 2009, when 10- yearold Sophie Smith and Mr. Matt Smith charmed an incredible 567 worms from their plot. The heaviest worm ever recorded weighed 0.23 of an ounce and was charmed by Mr. J. Overstall in 1987.
In 2013 the championships were filmed by a BBC camera crew for the Blue Peter programme, which was broadcast during the following week. Helen Skelton was there as presenter and she took part in the contest, helped by children from another local school, Monks Coppenhall Primary School in Crewe. Helen delighted the children by staying behind after the competition to pose for pictures and to sign autographs.
Similar events are held in Devon, in Ontario, and in Sopchoppy, Florida, which claims to be the “Worm Gruntin’ Capital of the World”, but Willaston remains the home of the World Championships. This year’s World Worm Charming Championships take place on Saturday 27th June. For further details telephone 01270 663957 or visit www. wormcharming. com
Competitors employ all sorts of methods to lure the worms to the surface.